Beautiful music

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“Do you live in Baltimore?”

It was a simple question from one exit-row seat to another. I had the window, the guy who asked had the aisle. Our stuff – phones, his iPad, my race program, two water bottles and a Quizno’s turkey-ranch-swiss – sat in the middle as Southwest Airlines Flight 2251 backed away from the Gate C-18 at Nashville International Airport.

We were headed from Nashville, where I spent the day talking and watching horses at the Iroquois Steeplechase before dashing to the airport, to BWI. I don’t live in Baltimore, but it’s close enough to home that I use the aiport – especially for the direct flights to Music City and back every May.

“No, I live in northeastern Maryland, closer to Delaware and I was in Nashville for the day to be at the steeplechase,” I said. “There’s a bunch of us on the plane.”

I introduced my rowmate to Annie Yeager across the aisle – she’s a jockey; well, she’s a jockey and a college student. Trainer Joe Davies was behind us. Video guy Richard Bortz was two rows back on the other side. Jockey Carol-Ann Sloan was back there somewhere. Several owners were toward the front – savvy enough to get an A list boarding pass or business select or something.

I explained what I did/do at the races and tried not to look so harried after a long, hot, sweaty day. It really was a blast – great racing, great weather, great people, a hat contest, tailgate parties and so on. The Iroquois is a fantastic event that generates revenue for Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and makes the social calendar of many important Nashvillians – though I did not see Marcus Mariota there. My traveling neighbor was not there either. I showed him a video of the Maryland Hunt Cup on my phone to give him half an idea. I’m not sure he got past the probable local image of big hats, fancy dresses, partying college students and so on.

“I know steeplechase, never been there, not really my crowd,” he said. “I ride my bike through there on a loop I do though so I go right past the course and see the signs.”

I’d seen him say hello to another passenger with a guitar strapped to his back – there’s always a guitar on the Nashville flights – so asked the only question I could.

“You in the music business?”

No, it was not Blake Shelton or even Deacon Claiborne.

It was Tom, I think, who didn’t give a last name. He’s a keyboard player, his buddy plays guitar and there was another guy up front who might have been a drummer or something. They’re part of the house band playing at Merriweather Post Pavilion concert venue in Columbia this week for Dear Jerry, a tribute to the music of Jerry Garcia (famed leader of The Grateful Dead), who died in 1995.

The show is Thursday and tickets are going for as high as $3500 apiece on Stubhub (lawn seats are $100+). The event has been sold out for months. Tom’s week was going to consist of rehearsals, lots of rehearsals, some set-up and then the performance. The Washington Post called the show “a sonic feast” for Deadheads. Doors open at 5:30. The show starts at 7. And might not ever end.

The house band is not on the lineup, which includes the Grateful Dead’s four surviving members: guitarist Bob Weir, drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, and bassist Phil Lesh. Others on the bill: 

– Bruce Hornsby.
– Buddy Miller.
– Grace Potter.
– Jimmy Cliff.
– Los Lobos.
– O.A.R.
– Peter Frampton.
– Widespread Panic.
– Yonder Mountain String Band.

And so on. Wow. I’m sure he thought my job was interesting or different. Imagine flying around the country for things like that.

I ate my sandwich, he read on his iPad. We landed in Baltimore, collected our stuff and prepared to head out. I handed him a business card and told him to give me a call if he wanted to go to the Iroquois next year.

“I might do that,” he said. “I guess I’ll have to buy my wife a hat first. She looks good in a hat.”

She’ll fit right in.