CMA Festival – Celebrating Music Altogether

CMA Festival – Celebrating Music Altogether

 

By S. Parks for Country Music News International
“It
is amazing how country music has taken over the world,” spoken by the
sweet soul of Kimberly of Little Big Town.  Is this merely a spontaneous
and excited reaction to hundreds of thousands of fans packing up their
sunscreen, cameras, Sharpies and water arriving at the CMA Festival
after saving their money and planning for a year?  Definitely not.
 Country music has indeed grown to unexpected and imperial proportions
throughout the world.  As our music has found a path that both retains
its heritage while it tiptoes over the line into other genres, the fan
base is expanding expedentially and swiftly.  With mega artists moving
into superstar status, such as Taylor Swift and Keith Urban selling out
shows all over the world in record time, the home base in Nashville
becomes even more significant as a second home for true country fans.
Music,
like Fan Fair fireworks, coming from virtually every club, bar,
storefront, honky tonk or just tucked under street corner awnings in the
rain, was further enhanced by eleven stages in Nashville’s downtown
area.  It wrapped around us like a warm blanket woven with songs,
autographs, memories and fun.

Like a giant
mixing bowl filled with sumptuous ingredients for a chocolate fudge
cake, the festival proved once again that country is the only genre that
can bring together fans, new artists and superstars on an up-close and
personal level.  Even running into the likes of Kix Brooks or Charlie
Daniels in a restaurant or around the corner becomes the norm.  
Autograph
sessions were going strong throughout the area.  The Country Music Hall
of Fame presented precious signing moments with the legendary Brenda
Lee, Charley Pride, Craig Morgan, Crystal Gale, Tyler Farr, Lauren
Alaina and the super-talented Kellie Pickler as well.  The Opry
Originals shop welcomed a full schedule of artists including Josh
Thompson, Scotty McCreery, Montgomery Gentry, Love and Theft, Josh
Turner, Dustin Lynch, and Little Big Town armed with photos to thank
their fans.  It took an engineer’s planning to prepare a schedule to
meet your favorites throughout the seven days of festivities and indulge
in the fan club parties on your list.  
Four days of meet and greets, signings and performances fan-jammed Fan Fair X at the new Music City Center.  Before her performance and Q & A session on the Close Up Stage, country
sweetheart LeAnn Rimes cut the red ribbon to open the event, the race
was on and fans holding guitars and memorabilia to be signed were in
their places.  Various record labels and other entities displayed
schedules for signings and performances which included Little Big Town
and dozens more.  The Band Perry held an early press conference followed
by presenting the “super fan” awards to their Fans Perry, a meet and
greet with photos, a chance for their fans to stand on the very stage
from their shows and a special concert.
Billy Dawson, talented Nashville artist and songwriter, greeted familiar faces and made new friends in his booth.  Even Lulu from the TV show HeeHaw had long lines of patient followers.  Chris
Young regrettably cancelled his four hour signing event due to an
injury and subsequent surgery but promised each and every fan a
personalized autographed photo in the mail.   After 83,000 happy
visitors, Fan Fair X closed on Sunday with the last autographs signed by
the iconic Oak Ridge Boys.
.   

Earlier
in the week Stars for Second Harvest took the stage at the Ryman
Auditorium for its tenth year.  Led by legendary hit songwriter Craig
Wiseman, the annual fundraiser is a fan favorite from “The Lord‘s
Prayer” to an acoustic “Cruise” finale with Florida-Georgia Line.
 Outdoors on lower Broadway, the Music City Gives Back concert took
place with. Rodney Atkins, Rose Falcon, Jana Kramer, Josh Thompson,
Dustin Lynch and Lee Brice, all while rehearsals were going on the next
block for the CMT Awards at the Bridgestone Arena.  
The
Grand Ole Opry hosted special CMA Fest shows with Charley Pride, Rascal
Flatts, Billy Ray Cyrus, Carrie Underwood, John Turner, Trace Adkins,
Jennifer Nettles and the Oak Ridge Boys along with up an coming star,
Charlie Worsham. Lorrie Morgan also thanked her fans for thirty
wonderful years.  Venues such as the Limelight brought us Storme
Warren’s Nashville Navy Party with Brother Trouble, Danielle Peck, Trent
Wilmon, Chad Warrix, Keith Anderson, Wade Hayes and many more.
Singer,
songwriter, and winner of two consecutive UK Album of the Year Awards,
Pete Kennedy, Ireland’s gift to our country music legacy, had a full
schedule of performances and signings.
Scotty
McCreery’s week was bursting as he performed and acted as guest host at
the 6th annual Guitars of the Stars auction, made several performances,
and pleased sports/Scotty fans with his hits on the Opry team at the
annual City of Hope softball game, held for the final year at the
historic Greer Stadium.  He also made four additional appearances
including his always fabulous fan club party held this year at the
Wildhorse Saloon.
Country music historian,
singer, songwriter, and photographer, Marty Stuart, held a lecture at
the Frist Museum with his mother Hilda to discuss the exhibit of his
cherished photographs of his country music families.  The annual Marty
Stuart Late Night Jam was held at the Ryman Auditorium with Travis
Tritt, Connie Smith and many more after the CMT Awards across the street
and before his autograph signing that went into the wee hours of the
morning.  
Early on Thursday, the first
official day of the Festival, one of the numerous “official” kick-offs
began with the incomparable electric Big and Rich partying our way into
the celebration.  John proclaimed, “I don’t think there’s a better party
in the world than right here at the CMA Festival in Nashville!“  More
than four hundred artists performed non-stop free shows for the next
four days at Riverfront Park and ten other stages  Thousands of fans of
all ages, from fifty states and twenty-four countries were delighted to
see everyone from Megan Lindsay and Matthew and Gunnar Nelson to Joshua
Scott Jones and a rocking show with Wynonna.  The GlobaLive show also
welcomed international stars such as Emerson Drive from Canada and the
fabulous Mark and Jay of O’Shea, hitmakers from Australia and Nashville.
The
NFL’s Titans’ LP Field rolled out the red carpet for a star-studded
roster of country stars and even more surprises by favorite artists
forthe four daily five-hour shows.  Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts and
Brantley Gilbert opened the concert series and the first evening closed
with Faith Hill making a special appearance with Tim McGraw for
“Meanwhile Back at Mama‘s“.   
More highlights
of the four-day spectacular were seeing Rascal Flatts stepping out of
the box when they vocalized a stunning a cappella version of “Happy”.
 Our beloved Keith Urban, hands down one of the most loved and
fan-friendly artists in music today, made surprise appearances as well
as leading his own night to rock on Saturday, after a rain delay.
 Travis Tritt, who had not sung on the CMA Fest stage since 2005,
celebrated his 25th year in country music with “It’s a Great Day to be
Alive”.  After Miranda Lambert’s performance, a video honored the queens
of country music including Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and many more,
just before Carrie Underwood came out to duet with her on “Something
Bad” and the crowd erupted for the girls in this otherwise all-guy
extravaganza.
One of the favorite surprises was
when Richie Sambora walked onto the stage for a rendition of “Wanted
Dead or Alive” with the Zac Brown Band before leaving for his sold-out
European tour with Orianthi.  Zac commented, “Thank you to the fans for
coming.  We realize that our living comes out of your pockets.”
The
artists were able to express their true sentiments about their careers
and invitations to be a part of the CMA Music Festival at the backstage
press conferences. Luke Bryan stated, “Anything to get closer to the
fans is fun for me!”  Brantley Gilbert touched on the real reason the
artists have chosen this life path when he said, “Hearing how one of my
songs got someone through a situation from a fan is better than
anything.”
The celebration continued each night
after the super shows in downtown honkytonks when Alan Jackson
performed a show at The Stage on lower Broadway with Kasey Musgraves and
Lee Ann Womack, who had presented the first CMT Impact Award to him at
the CMT Awards.  At our press conference at the Country Music Hall of
Fame earlier in the week, the always humble Alan said he wondered if we
were expecting him to announce retirement, to which he responded, “I
don’t know what I’d retire from.  I don’t work much now.“  He spoke
fondly of starting out, co-writing songs in houses on Music Row.  He
will be the artist in residence at the Hall with his much waited exhibit
and celebrate his 25th year in the country music industry with a 25
city tour in 2015. .  
After Blake Shelton’s
electrifying show, who also had performed on lower Broadway earlier, he
took along Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley and Lady A’s Charles Kelley
to a karaoke bar downtown for a wild night and a special treat for the
visitors.  Just like the fans, they love to mingle and be “just fans“
themselves – fans of the fans so to speak.  Where else can you walk in
off the street and see Alan Jackson on a stage a few feet to your right
just inside the door or hilarious karaoke by today‘s country superstars?
 Only in Nashville, thus the annual pilgrimage to the CMA Festival –
‘C’elebrating ‘M’usic ‘A’ltogether!, but officially the “Country Music
Association” Festival.
As the king of country
music, George Strait, was retiring with his final concert with Martina
McBride in Arlington, Texas, as the Fan Fair fireworks were lighting up
the sky, and as 80,000 fans left LP Field for home with their treasured
memories, we knew it would not be long until the next CMA Festival.  

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