Summer music festival season is in full swing, and country music festival biggest festival of the year started on Thursday, June 5th came to a close on Sunday, June 8th. An estimated 80,000+ people from all over the world came to see the biggest names and rising stars in country music on 10 different stages spread out over downtown Nashville.
The four day festival was jammed packed with high energy entertainment, intimate acoustic performances and interviews with country’s young rising stars.
Day 1 – Thursday
Like any other day in Nashville, you can find singers and song writers performing on street and sidewalks; but at CMA Fest add thousands upon thousands of country music fans, rows of tents and booths filled with cowboy boots and hats, official CMA merchandise, and the best street food around.
In addition to all the street performers, there were stages placed all over the city. My day started at the larger Chevrolet Riverfront Stage where two powerhouse women of country music took the stage; Season 3 winner, Cassadee Pope, and country music star Wynonna and her band, The Big Noise.
Both women were amazing, representing new country and classic country. Cassadee went a little more pop and rock country, exciting the younger crowd with her amazing voice and personality on stage. While Wynonna with her always powerful vocals belting out some of her big hits and reminding country music fans that country was all about the heart that goes into it.
As the sun started to set the party was just about to kick off over in LP Field. Opening the night, returning to CMA after 19 years away, was country band Alabama, playing their classics “I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)” and “Mountain Music.”
Followed by the hottest men in county music, hip shaking Luke Bryan and the grittier Brantley Gilbert. Surprising everyone in the crowd, Thomas Rhett and Justin Moore joined Gilbert onstage for “Small Town Throwdown.”
After Brantley’s rocker set, Dierks Bentley came on stage calling all those in attendance “all-stars of country fans.” His set included some of his big hits including “5-1-5-0” and recent single, “Drunk on a Plane.”
Country trio, Rascal Flatts, performed their new single, “Payback.” Combining pop and country they also performed an acapella version of Pharell’s “Happy.” And closing out the night was Tim McGraw with a surprise appearance by his wife, Faith Hill. Together their performed their new song, “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s.”
Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
Night 1 came to a close and the message was clear – this was celebration of country music and the fans who live and breathe it.
Day 2 – Friday
Day 2 of CMA Fest was jammed packed with the hottest new acts of country music. Among the many acts of the day, Danielle Bradbery, Parmalee, Kellie Pickler, Dan & Shay and Chase Rise took over at the Chevrolet Riverfront Stage. Appealing to the female fan base, Dan and Shay performed their hit “19 You + Me” and Chase Rice followed performing his hit song “Ready, Set, Roll.” While there were many younger acts, traditional country was well represented by Craig Morgan, Clay Walker, and the man who brought me to country music, Collin Raye.
Larger venues weren’t the only ones filled to capacity, the HGTV Lounge was a smaller intimate lounge built just for the weekend. In the lounge, fans found themselves a few feet away from the artist, asking them questions about their experiences and inspirations for their hit songs.
There were also a few surprise shows over the course of CMA Fest. Hunter Hayes surprised his fans with a set in front of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Fans flocked over after Hunter tweeted details about his surprise show.
And what country music festival would be complete without a tailgate? At the BMI Tailgate Stage, Blackjack Billy the redneck rockers got the crowd excited with beers in hand singing along to their hit song “Booze Cruise.”
Once inside LP Field the show began with Travis Tritt, who performed some of his biggest hits including “It’s a Great Day to be Alive” and “T-R-O-U-B-L-E.” Eric Church performed his new single “Cold One” and “That’s Damn Rock & Roll” with special guest Lzzy Hale who brought hard rock to a country music festival.
The Band Perry ran wild on the stage. The brothers and sister trio rocked out closing their set with “If I Die Young” with the crowd joining in to finish the song. Jason Aldean sang all his big hits including “My Kind of Party,” “Dirt Road Anthem,” “Take a Little Ride,” “She’s Country” and surprised the crowd with a duet with Travis on “Homesick.”
The Band Perry
Bringing out some girl power was Miranda Lambert with special guest Carrie Underwood. Looking amazingly she wore sporting a sparkling corset with leather hot pants and platinum boots. Although she looked awesome and sparkled, she joked “Good Lord I can’t breathe in this thing. I’m gonna need a drink after this.”
Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood
Blake Shelton closed the evening with hit songs including “Doin’ What She Likes,” “Sure Be Cool If You Did.” and his first No. 1 “Austin.”
Day 3 – Saturday
From a beautiful day to a raining night, Day 3 did not disappoint. Fans of Brett Eldredge only got to see him if they made it to his intimate show in the HGTV Lounge since he got rained out and cancelled for the BMI Tailgate.
Fans of country old and new came to see Billy Ray Cyrus, Frankie Ballard, Tyler Farr, Darryl Worley to name a few at the Chevrolet Riverfront Stage. Tyler Farr jumped off stage getting closer to the fans as he could, jumping fences and slapping high-fives.
If you needed to escape the heat fans headed over to the AT&T U-verse Fan Fair held inside the Music City Center. While many artists performed outdoors on various stages, there were more intimate showcases at the CMA Close Up Stage, where you could see LeAnn Rimes (Day 1), Sara Evans (Day 2), Kix Brooks (Day 3) and Lady Antebellum (Day 4). There were also smaller stages throughout the venue including the Durango Music Spot and the AT&T U-verse Showcase Stage. Fans got to also get close and personal with their favorite singers in various booth signings and photo ops; including Craig Morgan and Cowboy Troy.
Back outside before another night at LP Field, many fans made their way over to wait for Chris Lane and rumored appearance by Florida Georgia Line (according to a tweet by the boys themselves). As fans waited outside for the show to start a CMA Fest rep came on stage and announced that for our safety we were to be moved into the corridors of LP Field due to the impending storm about to hit downtown. Fans camped out on the floor awaiting news of how long the delay would occur or whether the show was cancelled for the night. I must say that @CountryMusic, the official Twitter account of the Country Music Association, was excellent in keeping everyone informed of the weather and new schedule of the nights big shows.
The show finally started 90 minutes late with Sara Evans performing through the downpour. I must say country music fans are dedicated and I happily stood in the rain proud to be one of them. Little Big Town played fan favorite “Boondocks” and Darius Rucker allowed the entire stadium to karaoke and sing along to hit “Wagon Wheel.”
Current country favorite, Florida Georgia Line rocked the stage and asked fans to shine their lighters or cell phone during “Get Your Shine On” that made the stadium light up. Keith Urban closed the night inviting FGL to sing “You’re Gonna Fly” and like many fans, I, as many fans in the stadium, was hoping Miranda would drop by to sing their duet “We Were Us” but she was out in Arlington, Texas helping King George say good bye. Instead Keith invited Little Big Town’s, Karen Fairchild, on stage to help him sing “We Were Us.”
Florida Georgia Line
The night turned out to be beautiful and magical. The fans were dedicated and stuck out the rain, lighting and thunder and got a great show in return.
Day 4 – Sunday
And on the last day of CMA Fest, Lady Antebellum filled Music City Center at the CMA Close Up Stage, with the hundreds maybe thousands of fans filling the space it wasn’t so close up anymore. But the fans were rewarded with a little sneak peak of “Long Stretch of Love,” a track from their next album. And continuing inside the Music City Center, artists including Dan & Shay and Joe Nichols signed autographs for fans.
On my way out of Nashville, I caught Austin Webb, Josh Scott Jones (formerly of Steel Magnolias) and Jamie Lynn Spears on the Bud Light Stage. It was an amazing end to the best four days in Nashville.
While my trip was ending CMA Fest was far from over; The Charlie Daniels Band, Brad Paisley, Hunter Hayes, Thomas Rhett, Oak Ridge Boys, Zac Brown Band, and Lady Antebellum were scheduled for the night at LP Field.
I have been to many Country Music Festivals all over the world and I am honored to announced that the CMA Country Music Festival is FestPop’s 2014 Best Country Music Festival.
By Tiffany Sirikulvadhana, Sr. Country Music Editor