Preakness Week adds 2 Irish bands

Nine days of horses, crabs, frogs, hot-air balloons, parades and concerts


With a pair of Irish bands set to perform two free concerts, this year's Preakness celebration will take on a greener tint.

Ireland's the Saw Doctors and local act the Donegal X-Press will play at Inner Harbor East and Belvedere Square, respectively, city officials announced yesterday. These two shows are the newest additions to the annual celebration's lineup, which starts May 12 and culminates with the running of the 131st Preakness Stakes May 20. Festivities include 5K races, the Preakness Parade, Frog Hop, Crab Derby and Balloon Fest.

Hasim Rahman, heavyweight champion of the World Boxing Council and Baltimore native, will serve as grand marshal.

"We're proud to show off our city," Mayor Martin O'Malley said at a news conference yesterday. "We're proud that the whole world comes to Baltimore. Baltimore has been in the national spotlight a lot lately, but nothing makes us more proud than to be able to host Preakness Stakes."

The Saw Doctors kick off the celebration with a free 6 p.m. show May 12 on Lancaster Street between South Exeter Street and Central Avenue. Barleyjuice, a Celtic rock band, will open.

Organizers chose the Saw Doctors because the band draws a wide age range and has a loyal following and wild live show, said retail marketer Mikey Monaghan. She's seen them twice.

"[They're] crazy -- really upbeat and high-energy," she said.

The Saw Doctors first gained notoriety in the United States with "Never Mind the Strangers," a song featured on radio commercials for Harp beer in the '90s. The Cure, the band's most recent album, was released in March.

May 19, the night before the race, Belvedere Square hosts Donegal X-Press outdoors at 6 p.m. Local merchants will set up at both concerts, aiming to create a festival atmosphere, Monaghan said.

Power Plant's free Miller Lite Nites concert series runs May 17-19 and features Mr. Greengenes, Puddle of Mudd and Faded Image featuring Rob Byer. All three concerts start at 8 p.m. and are open to those 21 and older only.

There will be a fireworks display at the Inner Harbor at 9:30 p.m. May 19, weather permitting. The Balloon Fest launches daily from Oregon Ridge Park May 18-20. If the weather holds, you will be able to see the hot-air balloons above the Inner Harbor at dusk May 19.

O'Malley, who has performed with the Saw Doctors, denied rumors that he would take the stage at the May 12 concert. He will be out of town for most of the day but hopes to return in time to catch part of the show, he said.

"I love those guys," he said.

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