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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.

There were headliners Bruno Mars and Train - Hawaii and California, respectively. And there were some Mid-Atlantic standbys, Mr. Greengenes and Phil Vassar, but even they were performing on the second stage.

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

It was not a surprising addition. The young 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, an audience heavily courted by Preakness organizers.

Despite being a Terp, singer Joe Mach had never been to Preakness before. He just knew it by reputation.
"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."

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."

Mach, 28, and his band-members - keyboardist Dave Trichter, drummer Scott Robinson, and bassist Coop Cooper – met as sophomores at College Park while taking some of the same music business and production classes.

They released an album, "Beta," in 2006 – "A collection of stuff that we called an album," Mach says - but it wasn't until the follow-up in 2009 that Mach says they found their identity.

"On the second record, we wanted to say we've matured a little bit," he says. "The summer before the album, we'd gone through personal turmoil. Dave [Trichter] and me ended long-term relationships. There was a lot of growing up and life reflection."

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

The new album is already in pre-production in Beltsville, Maryland and Mach said they're hoping for a Fall release. They're in the process of whittling down 30 written 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 they've been 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 of being the representatives of local talent.

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"It'll be very much a homecoming show," he said. "These are people we grew up with. At a festival across the country, people might be, 'who cares?' But this is our own backyard."

Hotspur performs at 11:10 a.m at the main stage at Pimlico Race Track. A full schedule of performance is here.

Photo: via

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