MP3 TAKES: Innings Music Festival Tampa 2023
Introducing MP3 TAKES, our event review series where we dive deep into the exhilarating world of music festivals and live performances. In a time when countless events grace stages across the globe, how do you navigate through the noise and discover the most captivating experiences? Join us as we embark on a journey to uncover the highlights, backstage stories, and unforgettable moments that make each event unique. MP3 TAKES is your ultimate guide to immersing yourself in the vibrant world of live music.
The Florida leg of the second annual Innings Festival kept its bases loaded all weekend (March 19-21). Baseball stars, music legends, and undercards came together for a jam-band, indie/alternative-focused festival that featured three stages named Home Plate, Right Field, and Left Field.
The festival was held across from George Steinbrenner Field, the designated spring training location for the New York Yankees, at the Raymond James Stadium Grounds
C3 Presents, the Austin-based company behind Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza, spearheads all iterations of the Innings festival. Last year, Tampa’s inaugural run cemented itself a few years following the original fest, which started in Tempe, Arizona, in 2018.
Japanese Breakfast’s lead singer, Michelle Zauner, claimed during her Saturday set that Innings is the perfect festival for indoor and outdoor kids to coexist.
Fans signed waivers to participate in the batting and pitching opportunities, limited to five swings or five pitches per turn, with individuals able to hop back in line after their turn concluded. Baseball enthusiasts and newcomers alike tested their abilities, while jam bands showcased their virtuoso saxophone or violin players.
Baseball legends like John Krunk, Goose Gossage, Ray Lankford, Jake Peavy, and Cecil Fielder signed autographs, posed for pictures, and offered advice to players of all ages. Ryan Dempster also hosted a special episode of his show “Off the Mound.”
Most music festivals offer picturesque backdrops for enthralling social media feeds comprised of flowers, incandescent lights, or designated photo frames.
Innings capitalized on America’s favorite pastime by instituting an inflatable baseball glove as a photo op, and the screens on either side of the stages displayed baseball stats, facts, and highlights between sets.
Performances depend on the way the band enters the stage. Joey Valence and Brae’s emcee, referred to as im.ewook bounced onto the stage, clad in a bright pink windbreaker and a face mask to rile up the crowd for the breakbeat boys. The high-energy, genre-defying duo from Pennsylvania catapulted onto home plate.
The boys launched into their 45-minute set by opening with “Ready Set,” the perfect introduction to their punk-influenced hip-hop. The “Punk Tactics” singers delivered an electrifying performance, filling blank space between songs with comical anecdotes.
Valence and Brae energized Innings, imploring the crowd to “Crank it Up,” “Double Jump,” and show respect toward the iconic menu item: the “Club Sandwich.” It’s no secret why several upcoming major festivals scheduled these natural performers amidst a world tour.
After ‘JVB,’ Tai Verdes entranced the crowd with his soothing voice and positive outtake on this little thing called life. It was extraordinary to hear a crowd of four-year-old hip-hop enthusiasts and 70-year-old Dave Matthews Band and Weezer fans chanting, “I know I’ll be A-O, A-O-K, A-O-K, I know I’ll be A-O, A-O-K.”
Sunday Scene Stealers
Marcus Mumford wins the award for hilarious solo performer. Mumford walked on stage, joking about Florida’s weather and his band’s absence. The audience welcomed him to Tampa with applause and laughter. Mumford played some new material off his solo album Self-Titled, the frontman of the London-based folk rock band Mumford & Sons held his own with a microphone and an acoustic guitar.
Mumford shifted from raw lyrics to musings about his pre-show massage, claiming it was the worst decision he could have made. The audience couldn’t get enough of his humor or his accent.
The 36-year-old British musician nodded his cap to a few of Mumford & Son’s biggest hits, including “Little Lion Man” and “The Cave. ” He closed the show with the nostalgic tune “I Will Wait.” Aside from his new solo music and Mumford & Sons tracks, Mumford also performed “Cowboy Like Me,” a Taylor Swift original in which he lends backing vocals.
Dave Matthews Band closed the two-day show with a set that enraptured every former or current band kid in attendance. The five-piece bunch marched onto the stage, waving to the audience, preparing to play a set over two hours, but running into sound issues. After a prolonged pause, eager fans erupted into a collective belt of “One Sweet World.”
The best part of a Dave Matthews Band performance is their inability to conform to ideas permeating the music scene. The outfit doesn’t care to exhaust the same songs day after day. Sure, they play some of the bigger hits to excite audiences, but the iconic band oozes adoration for music. Rashawn Ross’ infectious smile translates to euphoria within the audience, especially considering the man can hit triple C’s and notes above the staff as easily as a first-chair prodigy in middle school can read a treble clef.
Innings didn’t face too many strikeouts. Despite a few moments of downpour on Saturday and drizzle on Sunday night, the weather favored the two-day festival. With no overlapping sets, fans weren’t hard-pressed to choose between their favorite gigs, plus the amenities stayed open all weekend for attendees to check out. Additionally, the fest had free hydration stations (yes, the water was actually cold at this festival) and free Naloxone to ensure the safety of festival-goers.
Innings proved a sentiment known to most music admirers: music is for all ages.