We just finished up a week of the biggest country music party in the world. CMA Music Fest took over Nashville and broke records. That’s right; over 71,000 fans came to see over 450 artists perform more than 200 hours of concerts. And FOCUS was right in the middle of it!
It would truly be a novel to walk you through the week from my point of view, so I’ll give you some highlights:
Billboard Country Music Summit and CAA New Office Party
I could only make the first day of CMS, but it was still packed with information and fun. We got great insight from industry professionals on everything from touring to radio. We also got an insight into Luke Bryan’s career and examined his rise to stardom, straight from the man himself and his team.
That night we attended the Creative Artist Agency’s new office party in the penthouse of the Suntrust building downtown. Aside from the breathtaking views (from just about EVERY office), the cool technology they installed and the free drinks, we also ran into our friends Jesse Lee, Jana Kramer and Kip Moore. And apparently I met Hot Chelle Rae, but am embarrassed to admit that I had no clue what they looked like.
Highlight: Jana Kramer. Obviously.
Chevy Volt Country Music Tour and Country Music Gives Back
Tuesday was my big Chevy Volt excursion that I told everyone about. Don’t worry, the full article and (more importantly) the footage are coming! My friend Hannah and I had a lot of fun… and the footage will probably end up being PG-13, especially with me driving in Nashville traffic.
Then it was off to the Country Music Gives Back VIP Party sponsored by Muve Music. There we ran into Jana again, Rodney Atkins, Lee Brice, Josh Thompson, and got an interview with Thompson Square! Wonderful people; sickeningly adorable; and fun to interview, so watch out for that as well!
Highlight: An interview with country’s hottest duo… one of the highlights of the entire year, let alone Tuesday.
CMT Music Awards
If you watched the awards, you don’t need a recap. If you missed them, don’t worry; CMT will re-air them 32,598 times this month. I regret that I wasn’t doing my normal live tweeting, but hey, it’s hard to do while you’re there watching. CMT did it right with the two collaborations: Lady A and Hot Chelle Rae opened the show, and Journey joined Rascal Flatts to sing “Don’t Stop Believing.” Epic. We then went to the Warner Music after party where Gloriana performed. Love those guys!
Highlight: Lady A/Hot Chelle Rae killed it!
CMA Music Fest Day 1 and Jana Kramer Album Release Party
Now on to the main event. I spent most of my time at the Chevy Riverfront stage. Today I saw Josh Thompson, Jerrod Neimann and Lee Brice. Great performances by all, and Jerrod even ran into the crowd.
After that, we had to go to aVenue for Jana Kramer’s album release party. The One Tree Hill fan base was prevalent, and Jana sang most of the songs off her debut self-titled album. If you haven’t yet, go pick up the album!
Then it was time for the nightly LP Field show. In case you don’t know, these shows feature SIX big-name acts performing each night, as well as the National Anthem and two acoustic performances. It all gets compiled into an ABC special sometime in the fall. Which means, every once in a while, a performance needs to be re-done, and it’s not uncommon for one of the hosts (this year Luke Bryan and Kimberly Perry) to get the crowd excited and make a throw to a band who played yesterday… just for TV.
Anyway, I’ll just run down the list of performances for Thursday: David Nail, legend Glen Campbell, Miranda Lambert, Lauren Alaina, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebelum, Zac Brown Band, Kellie Pickler and Brad Paisley. Not a bad night of concerts. And that was night ONE!
Highlight: Rhinestone Cowboy live.
CMA Music Fest Day 2
Back to Riverfront to see Thomas Rhett, Jo Dee Messina, Gloriana, David Nail, Craig Campbell and The Farm. Jo Dee Messina performed “Don’t Stop Believing” (second time I heard that song live at CMA Fest… weird) and Brought. The. House. Down. When I say not a single person was sitting or silent, I mean it. It didn’t become one of the best karaoke and party songs in history for nothing, folks.
I’ve also never seen The Farm do a full set. I’ll just say it: Holy shit, these guys bring it! Maybe it’s because they are all crazy talented and seasoned veterans of performing, or maybe it’s their refreshingly eclectic sound (Damien Horne even broke into a beat box during one song), but I would pay serious money to see these guys in concert. I don’t want to say you heard it here first, but watch out for them!
The LP show featured Ronnie Milsap, Brantley Gilbert, Jake Owen, The Band Perry, Gwen Sebastian, Blake Shelton, Randy Houser and Carrie Underwood. I always liked “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” but I never thought about how much of a stadium anthem it could be. How about 65,000 people ALL singing along, waving their hands and waving lighters (and by lighters I mean cell phones). I was actually thrilled to have nosebleed tickets to be able to watch the entire thing unfold.
Highlights: Krista Marie (from The Farm) blew me a kiss from stage then threw me her pick. Everyone else in the crowd, eat your hearts out.
CMA Music Fest Day 3
Riverfront again: Love and Theft, Kip Moore, Casey James, Heidi Newfield, James Otto and Corey Smith. Probably my favorite riverfront day as a whole. I’m calling it right now: watch out for Casey James. Next Keith Urban. You DID hear that one first. And many people don’t know who Corey Smith is, but the crowd sure did. That’s because Corey made a grassroots name for himself in the SEC circuit. A Georgia Bulldog alum, he has penned some of the greatest underground college anthems of all time. The crowd that was there all knew it, and was singing every word (as was I.) And we even got to see a proposal take place during Kip Moore’s “Hey Pretty Girl.” Congrats to Matt and Trish!
LP Field: Julie Roberts, Kenny Rogers, Hunter Hayes, Love and Theft (again), Little Big Town, Eric Church, Kip Moore (again), Faith Hill and Luke Bryan. Kenny is still orange, Hunter is still a child prodigy, Eric Church is one of the hottest names in country music right now and put on a show as such, Faith Hill was… there, and Luke Bryan is hilarious.
Highlight: Either singing along to “Drinkin’ Again” by Corey Smith or “Boyfriend” the Justin Bieber song Luke covered on piano.
CMA Music Fest Day 4 and Exhaustion
Quite honestly, after this entire week, I’m not sure I know what was going on on Sunday. Somehow I walked down to riverfront and got escorted backstage before Sunny Sweeney performed (I went with it), but I couldn’t hear or see, so I left and went back down front where I belonged. I love Sunny though. I also love Jana Kramer who performed later in the day (yeah, that’s no secret). In between though, was Lo Cash Cowboys, who I have never seen live. Talk about fun! At one point Preston Brust walked over to the truss (the big thing holding the stage up) which had a neon sign on it that said “Do NOT climb Truss!” Guess what happened next… he ended up re-taping that sign to the very very top of the truss. We cheered.
Last night at LP: A little subdued in comparison to the rest of the week. Sarah Darling, The Mavericks, Bill Anderson, Scotty McCreary, Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, Alan Jackson, Steel Magnolia and Martina McBride. Through pure adrenaline I stayed and watched the entire thing, which ended with Martina bringing the house down.
Highlight: Martina singing “Broken Wing.” Flawless. And ending in a 5-minute standing ovation, complete with tears from the singer (and Matt).
So, what a week. I’m still recovering. Patrice I’m sure will have her own reflection on the week with her own highlights. If you were there what were yours? We’d love to know!