Hotspur prepares for Preakness

Local indie rockers say Saturday's gig will be their biggest yet

  • Hotspur performs at Preakness.
Hotspur performs at Preakness. (Handout photo, Baltimore…)
May 19, 2011

When the Preakness Infield line-up was announced, it was surprisingly light on the Maryland talent for an event celebrated here for over a century.

Then, at the last minute, Hotspur, formed in the classrooms of the University of Maryland College Park seven years ago, was added to the bill to kick things off Saturday.

It wasn't surprising: The Maryland four-piece has had an auspicious year since the release of second album, "You Should Know Better by Now." With its heavy rotation on mtvU, the band has become a college favorite. Despite being a Terp, singer Joe Mach had never been to Preakness before. He just knew it by reputation. With a crowd expected to reach the hundreds of thousands, Mach said Preakness is likely to be "one of the biggest if not the biggest show of our young careers."

"Musically, Preakness shows have been known for their mayhem," Mach said. "This year, they're making it classier and elevating the level of performances. Once they asked us to do it, we couldn't turn it down."

Mach, 28, and his band-mates — keyboardist Dave Trichter, drummer Scott Robinson, and bassist Coop Cooper — met as college sophomores. They released "Beta," in 2006 — "A collection of stuff that we called an album," Mach said — but didn't find their identity until the follow-up, Mach said.

By 2007, they had performed with the Vans Warped Tour, but the crowds didn't come for them.

"It's a lot of people casually walking by and maybe noticing you," he said.

Mach realized they'd finally broken through when they booked Rams Head Live in September 2009.

"Rams Head was the first one where it was a big show and a majority of the audience was there for us. That's a very different feeling from performing in front of people who don't know who we are," he said. Soon after, the band booked another big regional club, the 9:30 club.

Mach said the time since the album's release has been about "sustaining" that momentum, but that success not been without its growing pains.

"Before, when we were writing, we thought, 'no big deal,'" Mach said. "It takes a bit to get yourself into that mode. At the back of your mind, you're thinking, 'now, all these people are going to hear this.'"

"On the second record, we wanted to say we've matured a little bit," he said. "There was a lot of growing up and life reflection."

Audiences responded. Songs "Chandelier" and "Heads/Tails" went on rotation at mtvU, and the band started booking bigger gigs.

A new album is already in pre-production, and Mach said they're hoping for a fall release. They're in the process of whittling down 30 songs. Already, the plucky, Killers-esque "Last Call (While the Night is Young)" has been released as a single on YouTube. Hotspur has mainly stayed off the road while working on the new material. But when I.M.P., the 9:30 Club promoters who book Preakness Infield, approached them about the show, Mach liked the idea.

"It'll be very much a homecoming show," he said. "This is our own backyard."

Hotspur performs at 11:10 a.m. at the main stage at Pimlico Race Track, 5201 Park Heights Ave. Tickets are $40. Call 410-547-7328 or go to ticketmaster.com

Erik Maza

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