Innings Festival 2023: Eddie Vedder
Eddie Vedder, Green Day, Weezer, The Black Crowes, The Offspring, Marcus Mumford and more…
I took some time off because I was traveling to see the 2023 edition of the Innings Festival. It’s designed to coincide with the opening of Spring Training baseball. This year’s version included headliners like Green Day, Eddie Vedder, Weezer, Black Crowes, and The Offspring. And I know I’ve been there for a while, but I’ve climbed another level of the nostalgia mountain. Growing up, I wasn’t a giant fan of any of those bands other than Eddie Vedder, but they were so big on alternative radio and MTV that I know them all unbelievably well. Where I used to never go to a show unless I was a gigantic fan of the artist, now I’m going to see shows so that I can cross bands off my list.
Of course, it’s all about the friends as well. I’ve gone to every Innings Festival since one friend, and I went in 2019. Of course, 2021 was canceled due to the pandemic, but we’ve been to them all otherwise. This year, we were six 40-something dads trying to endure the creaky joints and sore lower backs from standing for six to eight hours while drinking too much for two days straight. With some of my weird favorite bands, I often go to small shows around Cleveland by myself. When it comes to a big festival like Innings with well-known, aging 90s names, it’s easier to entice a crowd. With that, here are some of the highlights from the weekend…
No band has had a funnier subtext in my crew of friends than The Offspring. I don’t hate The Offspring, but I felt like they were a novelty act. When a friend of mine was exaggerating and said they were a “Top-5 90s band,” I overreacted in arguing that they were undoubtedly not Top-5. I got labeled a hater, and I’ve been jokingly trying to correct the record ever since.
I don’t hate The Offspring!!!
They’re fine. I like their top songs well enough on a playlist. Maybe calling them a novelty is unfair, but any band that writes with humor, I feel, is more of a novelty band. At some point in music, if you’re trying to be funny, there’s less distance between you and Barenaked Ladies and Tenacious D than between you and punk mates like Green Day.
Regardless, I had a blast singing along to all the Offspring hits. I don’t know why I’m so strident that the Offspring are appropriately rated in the landscape of bands, but I am. And even if I mute them compared to others, make no mistake, The Offspring is a good, fun band to this day. They crushed their set at Innings with a face full of sun. The idea that Dexter and Noodles are still up there pounding away at sets at 57 and 60 years each is pretty unbelievable.
We saw Weezer play a headlining set at Innings in the past, and this time they played an hour. Weezer is one of the most efficient bands, delivering great song after great song. Rivers Cuomo’s singing and guitar work are entirely effortless. I know that’s a weird thing to say about a known musical genius decades into his career, but it bears repeating that you can tell how great of a player he is on the guitar, and yet, he never goes full guitar-god on you trying to show you how great he is. He jams simple melodies like “Island in the Sun” and gets everyone bouncing and singing.
Green Day were also shockingly good. It’s almost like they’ve been playing at a high level for the better part of 40 years.
But the highlight for me was Eddie Vedder. I’ve written about Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder here before, but Pearl Jam was one of my favorite bands as a kid. It was one of my first favorite bands that felt like mine and mine alone, at least in my household. I was into Pearl Jam before the rest of my early teenage friends. It’s one of the few ways I was “advanced” at a young age. Point being, anytime I can see Eddie Vedder play music with or without Pearl Jam, it’s a special level of joy that I can barely explain.
He wasted no time, launching into “Elderly Woman” to start the night. He played a few more, including “Wishlist” and “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty. Other than Vedder, Pearl Jam touring musician extraordinaire Josh Klinghoffer was the evening’s star. Klinghoffer was in the Chili Peppers for a while when John Frusciante was not. He’s a phenomenal guitar player, can play the keys and absolutely sings his ass off, which brings me to my highlight for the night.
Eddie Vedder and Josh Klinghoffer blasted through a stripped down version of “Hunger Strike” which Eddie sang with Chris Cornell on the Temple of the Dog record. But forget Josh Klinghoffer singing his ass off, it was my turn. No, I don’t have a recording, but these moments make my life great. I got to sing “Hunger Strike” as an audience member at a Chris Cornell show once. I now can say I got to sing it as an audience member with Eddie as well. For me, it’s up there with getting to sing “Hey Jude” in the audience with Paul McCartney.
That’s the really high level version of this year’s Innings Festival. It’s going to sound complainey, but it was kind of cold this year. You don’t expect it to be in the 40s in Arizona when you’re booking a trip to get out of Cleveland weather. It was all fine, really. The real point is that we went to the show. A group of washed dads went away for a weekend, had a blast without getting into any trouble or causing any permanent damage and bonded over music.
So often in my life these days, music adventures are solo outings. When I get to share it all with some buddies, it makes it that much more special. Even if it is only The Offspring.
Offspring made two really excellent albums (Smash and Ixnay), then a handful of really awful albums. They rebounded a bit with Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace, and that's about it. I would agree with you that are most certainly not a top-5 90s band. But I saw them on Warped many years ago and they were excellent live.