Written By: Patrice Whiffen
The CMA Music Festival really is country music’s BIGGEST party! As soon as I arrived in Nashville on Wednesday night, it was obvious that I was in the right place. Surrounded by cowboy boots, country music and thousands of fans, I knew my weekend would be one to remember (or at least try to).
This four-day event is one of the most star-studded experiences for any country music fan. Wednesday’s kick-off parade ushered in the weekend’s festivities. Glen Campbell led the parade down Broadway, before Little Big Town hosted the kick-off block party. Wednesday night’s CMT Music Awards brought all the stars to Music City, and acted as a preview of what was to come for the weekend.
On Thursday I had a chance to chat with Thompson Square about their experience joining the CMA Music Festival. Shawna Thompson told me about how only two years ago, her and husband Keifer were selling cowboy boots and beer during the event, still trying to ‘make it’ in the music business.
On Thursday night at LP Field, David Nail took the stage and ‘Let it Rain,’ on the crowd, before legend, Glen Campbell came out and sang a few classics. Miranda Lambert performed her new single, ‘Fastest Girl in Town,’ before being joined on stage by her special guests, and fellow band members, The Pistol Annies. Kellie Pickler then took the smaller center stage at LP Field, followed by Jason Aldean’s high energy and rocking country performance. Aldean showed 65,000 screaming fans how CMA Music Festival is ‘My Kinda Party,’ before Lady Antebellum performed a breathtaking rendition of their hit single, ‘Need You Now.’ The Zac Brown Band announced that their new album, entitled ‘Uncaged’ will hit stores on July 10, 2012. Lauren Alaina then performed her beautiful new single, written by Carrie Underwood, ’18 Inches.’ The show wrapped up with headliner, Brad Paisley, taking the stage to perform all of his major hits that got the whole crowd on their feet dancing…particularly when he sang, ‘Alcohol.’ Coincidence?
Friday was spent taking in the sights and sounds of Nashville, and meeting with tons of up and coming artists that you can expect to hear coming through your radios in the near future. I had a chance to chat with Hannah Bethel, Josh Thompson, Lee Brice, Dustin Lynch, Frankie Ballard, Eric Paslay, Craig Campbell, Rachel Farley, Jesse Lee and The Farm!
Friday night was another amazing show at LP Field which kicked-off with country legend, Ronnie Milsap. Songwriter turned singer, Brantley Gilbert sang the songs that made Jason Aldean famous, along with his current hits including ‘You Don’t Know Her Like I Do.’ The ladies in the crowd went wild when Jake Owen hit the stage, and he had 65,000 fans swinging their hands in the air to ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night.’ The Band Perry then took the stage before Blake Shelton proved that it was ‘All About Tonight’ at LP Field. The winner of the hit show, The Voice, Gwen Sebastian took the stage to sing backup vocals on Shelton’s ‘Drink On It.’ Then Carrie Underwood, in tiny cutoff jeans,(showing off her famous legs) rocked the stadium as she sang her newest single, ‘Good Girl.’
Saturday morning was the 2012 City of Hope Celebrity Softball Challenge, held at Greer Stadium. Celebrities included Carrie Underwood, Vince Gill, and Brantley Gilbert facing off against Scotty McCreery, David Nail and Chuck Wicks. Although softball is not the forte of any of these musicians, they all had a blast helping to raise money for cancer research. Later that day I had a chance to catch up with country newcomers, Joel Crouse and Canaan Smith.
On Saturday night, Kenny Rogers took the stage, followed by country newcomer, Hunter Hayes. As the youngest performer of the night, he stole the hearts of all the young ladies in the crowd, and performed his new single, ‘Wanted’ on a piano in the center of the stadium. Rodney Atkins then surprised fans with an unscheduled performance, before Little Big Town came out and brought the crowd to their feet with ‘Pontoon.’ Luke Bryan then interviewed Faith Hill about how she reacted to hearing that husband Tim McGraw had been voted the Hottest Man in Country Music. Faith laughed and replied that she would have picked the King of Country, Mr. George Strait for that honour. Eric Church then captivated the crowd with his hits, and had everyone put their cellphones in the air for ‘Springsteen.’ Faith Hill, looking fabulous as ever, took the stage to perform her new single, ‘Overrated.’ Then Kip Moore came out to sing us ‘Somethin Bout a Truck.’ The main event on Saturday night was Luke Bryan (not to mention, his tight jeans). His performance was one for the record books – his enthusiasm and stage presence was second to none. He had everyone singing along to his current hit ‘Drunk On You,’ and brought a lucky fan on stage to show us how to ‘shake it’ for ‘Country Girl (Shake it for Me).’
Sunday I had a chance to chat with country newcomer, Olivia Mitchell, before speaking with Taylor Swift’s mom, Andrea, in downtown Nashville. Sunday rolled around and The Mavericks kicked things off at LP Field, before legend, Bill Anderson took the stage. Then American Idol winner, Scotty McCreery had the girls going crazy as he sang his current single, ‘Water Tower Town.’ Dierks Bentley then took the stage and asked ‘Am I The Only One’ who wants to have fun at LP Field – to which the crowd answered with a loud cheer. Karen Fairchild of LBT then joined Dierks on stage for their single, ‘When You Gonna Come Around.’ Rascal Flatts then took the stage before Alan Jackson performed songs off of his new album, ‘30 Miles West.’ Steel Magnolia performed, before headliner Martina McBride wowed everyone with her absolutely gorgeous voice. She ended the night, and CMA Music Festival, with a standing ovation from fans as she sang her biggest hit, ‘Independence Day.’
Overall the CMA Music Festival was an unbelievable country music experience. With all of the musicians performing for free, all of the proceeds from the four-day festival go to the ‘Keep the Music Playing’ program, that supports local area schools by providing musical education and instruments. Nashville really comes alive to embrace this event, and I can’t wait to attend ‘the party’ again next year!
To view the full photo gallery from the four day festival, click here.