I’ll just start with this: this year’s CMA Music Fest in Nashville was without a doubt one of my favorite musical experiences to date. I’ve been to some awesome festivals this summer, each with their own special perks and unique personalities. But CMA Fest has won in my books. With over 150 events happening every single day from intimate shows to meet and greets to signings, each day was packed out with endless opportunities for thousands of super excited fans. And this was all before the main event of each day even started; nightly performances at the Nissan Stadium, lined up with back to back concerts from the top artists in the industry.
Even if you’re not a country music fan, I think we can all agree that there’s a certain vibe that comes from the genre and its supporters that’s nothing less than warm, friendly, and just all around joyful. Walking around Broadway from show to show, I watched people interact with shop owners and bartenders while holding cold beers and wearing huge smiles. I mean, I’m from the south, but I felt southern charm and hospitality this week like never before. I didn’t have a bad encounter all weekend. And that’s saying a lot, considering the near 90,000 people in attendance.
But the atmosphere wasn’t the only thing that made the fest memorable. Country music is one of those things that forms a multitude of opinions; some love it, some hate it, some like an artist or two, and some have maybe one song they can stand to listen to on low volume. The CMA Fest did a phenomenal job of catering to every different type of country music listener- the dedicated and the dabbling. There was old country and new country, legendary idols and upcoming stars, long shows and short ones, intimate settings and packed out stages. There were stars decked out in cowboy hats, fringed vests, and leather boots. But there were also several in skinny jeans, Chuck Taylors, and baseball caps. Shawna Thompson wore some leather-looking pants, a Mickey Mouse T-shirt, and a leopard printed sun hat, and Canaan Smith performed in camo and plaid. They were clearly there to perform, to make people happy, not to win any fashion awards (but not to say these country stars didn’t make lasting fashionable impressions on me; I’ve never seen so many stunning southern belles and gents at the CMT Awards on Wednesday night). It felt relaxed and welcoming. It felt good. Basically it felt super country, and I loved it.
Every country artist you can think of contributed to this long awaited week of music in Nashvegas. Every year, artists use this festival as a way to give back to their fans as the shows throughout the day are open and free to the country music community. Keith Urban gave an intimate, fan-only acoustic show in the HGTV Lodge, Thomas Rhett had a meet and greet at Fan Fair X, and Steven Tyler surprised fans with a three hour signing. The presence of the performers felt truly genuine, one of my favorite things about music festivals.
So the days began with crowds of excited fans and shows all over downtown. There was a stage on the river, in the middle of Broadway, at the amphitheater, and a few in the AC if you needed a break from the 100 degree forecast. There were boot shops on every corner and a whole street full of food trucks. From mid morning to early evening, we made our way from show to show enjoying a music festival in the heart of Nashville Tennessee. When the night rolled in, so did the fancy production teams and incredible set lists- the highly anticipated and exclusive shows of the festival took place nightly at the Nissan Stadium and lasted through midnight, featuring shows from big namers like Steven Tyler, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, and many more.
There were literally sun up to sun down festivities happening in Music City this past week and I don’t think there was a thing they should have done differently. The fest embodied a perfect summer in the south, from the music to the food to the good company. We had an absolute blast covering the 2016 CMA Music Festival and are already looking forward to next year. HUGE kudos to the great city of Nashville and CMA for putting on the show of the summer. Thanks for having us, and see ya next year!