For its part, Train rocked its audience, into a stupor. Throughout its 80-minute set, the band had a hard time engaging a crowd that was not much larger than what an early-afternoon performer would get at Virgin Mobile FreeFest and that seemed far more interested in its beer mugs.
Despite trying his hardest, Pat Monahan had to instead resort to doing covers, passing out T-shirts, and taking pictures of himself with fans’ cameras. Before its last two songs, the biggest cheers had been a Zeppelin song, and a shockingly incongruous “Umbrella,” the Rihanna blockbuster.
After 16 years together, it seems the only people Train can rile up is the “Beezus and Ramona” set.
For “She’s on Fire,” he invited on stage a group of tweens who wore “Trainette” shirts and screamed in unison during the chorus, the clearest sign all afternoon that this was a calmer, more family-friendly infield.
Monahan and his band begun their set at 1:06 p.m. with “If it’s Love,” a recent song he interrupted to tweet a picture of the crowd. Gotta up those followers! The rest of their set list was heavy on their hits and lesser-known songs from “Save me San Francisco,” their most recent album.
Sporting a waistcoast and a hairdo that suggested he’d just come from a wind tunnel, Monahan was on-point, gracious, and friendly to the otherwise nonchalant crowd.
He covered Zeppelin on the fifth song, and followed up with a countrified version of “She’s on Fire,” during which he wore a black straw hat. “I Got You,” one of their better ballads off the new album, was upbeat and earnest. For “Calling All Angels,” another early hit, the crowd clapped along. Monahan gave it his all during “Free,” playing the drums alongside drummer Scott Underwood.
But the crowd seemed uninterested. They didn’t wake up from their coma until the last two songs of the afternoon, Train’s most recent hit, “Hey, Soul Sister,” and it’s most well-known, “Drops of Jupiter.”
Dan Breheny and Kristen Tompkins came to the infield this year for the first time expecting the raucousness of the past.
“We heard it was a good time, a big party atmosphere,” said Breheny, a 25-year-old from Saratoga, New York. “Something you gotta go to at least once in your life.”
“I expected to get face-punched,” said Tompkins, a 25-year-old teacher who moved to Baltimore from New York last year.
But watching Train on the infield’s main stage, they were casually nonchalant. No one had thrown spilled beer on them, or shoved them to get to the front.
“I’m bored,” she said. “I don’t know that much about Train. But look at this crowd. No one’s rocking out.”
Still, Breheny, who is visiting just for Preakness, said it’s better than Saratoga, where there is no entertainment besides the ponies. “It’s all about the races there,” he said.
Also watching Train was Michelle Gonzalez, a 39-year-old admissions rep at All State Career School. In 12 years of living in Baltimore, it was only the third time shed come to the infield.
She'd been put off by the first time she came, over a decade ago. By noon, someone was being dragged out drunk by police. It scared me, she said.
But this year, she was surprised. Now, everyone is still having fun but its not so crazy that people are passed out by 2 p.m.
She bought her grandstand ticket two weeks ago, drawn in by the music acts, which included, in addition to Train, R&B crooner Bruno Mars, and the rock band Puddle of Mudd, a favorite of hers.
I think its a great tradition, she said. I hope we never lose it.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun