Maroon 5 and the rapper Wiz Khalifa will headline this year's Preakness Infield May 19 at Pimlico Race Track, the Maryland Jockey Club announced Friday morning.
It's the fourth year the Infield has hosted marquee performers as part of the InfieldFEST, an alternative to the bring-your-own-beer mayhem of the past that combines music, bikini contests, volleyball games and other events.
The selection of the five-piece band Maroon 5, known for its brand of highly polished commercial pop, is in line with the family-friendly acts that headlined last year — the R&B singer Bruno Mars, and the adult contemporary big shots, Train.
But Khalifa, one of hip-hop's best known marijuana advocates, contradicts the carefully balanced image the Jockey Club has cultivated for the Infield in recent years.
During a conference call on Friday morning, Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas said selecting Khalifa, who is nominated for High Times Magazine's 2011 “Stoner of the Year,” was an effort to attract the 21-35 age-group.
“I know his music is a little edgy,” Chuckas said. “But I can't play Lawrence Welk. I need to play music [young people] will come and listen to.”
The Jockey Club lost the Infield's young attendees in 2009 when it ended its longtime BYOB policy, bringing attendance to a historic low of nearly 78,000. And while it won some of them back the next year with the Mug Club, which gives fans a bottomless beer mug for $20 over admission, and the racy “Get Your Preak On” ad campaign, some of the race's more traditional attendees were offended by what they saw as pandering.
Chuckas said attendance last year increased to approximately 107,000 thanks to several factors, but especially a dual marketing strategy, one that appealed to older, conservative fans, and one, headed by the half-man, half-centaur Kegasus, that catered to young people. Peak attendance occurred in 2008, with around 112,000 people. Chuckas said early ticket sales are up from last year, and that he hopes attendance will reach at least 110,000.
The entertainment at the InfieldFEST, booked by concert promoter I.M.P., has also shifted over the years, getting progressively more relevant: ZZ Top and Buckcherry in 2009, O.A.R. and Zac Brown Band the year after that.
Maroon 5, which already has three Grammys, had a successful 2011 thanks to “Moves Like Jagger,” a huge single that has sold more than 4 million digital copies, and is up for a Grammy this year. The song was 2011's 9th highest-selling single, according to Billboard.
Khalifa is up for two Grammy awards for “Black & Yellow” from the album “Rolling Papers,” which has sold more than 500,000 copies.
There will be a second stage with three acts again this year — Puddle of Mudd and Phil Vassar performed last year — but Mike Gathagan, spokesman for the Jockey Club, said two of the acts have not been secured yet. The club hopes to announce the Jagermeister stage's acts — which he said will include at least one local group — before the end of the month.
For the first time in three years, Infield tickets and Mug Club prices have increased by $10, due to the “elevated” music acts, Chuckas said. The Jockey Club is offering a limited-time discount this weekend: Infield tickets are discounted to $40 until Monday 7:30 a.m., and $50 after that until May 12. The Mug Club is again $20 above the price of admission; it's also $10-off for the weekend.
Marketing for this year's Preakness Stakes has yet to be finalized. Chuckas joked that Kegasus disappeared after last year's festivities. There is no word on if the divisive mascot will return this year.
For a review of last year's Infield entertainment, click here.
Wesley Case contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun