In Focus: CMA Fest Takes Over Nashville

Country music’s biggest party invaded downtown Nashville June 6-9, as CMA Fest returned for its 51st edition.  The four day long event featured hundreds of musical acts performing on one of nine official stages, with many other performances and events lined up across town. 

Music ran daily from 10am until almost midnight with most of these performances free to those in attendance.  Only the night time performances at Nissan Stadium and Ascend Amphitheater charged admission. Stadium performers included Jelly Roll, Luke Bryan, Lainey Wilson, Old Dominion and many others.  

Ascend Amphitheater during CMA Fest

CMA Fest kicked off under Thursday June 6 under beautiful blue skies and typical warm southern temperatures.  Early arrivers were treated to a special Q&A session at the CMA Close Up Stage with country legend Dolly Parton, while the Riverfront Stage opened the music portion with a set by Dylan Scott (who would perform at the Ascend Amphitheater later that evening).   Warren Zeiders packed the Riverfront Stage Thursday afternoon, showcasing his gritty country rock.  Early on it became clear that the CMA talet valued the fans in attendance, as it was common to see acts hop off stage and meet fans following their performance.

Warren Zeiders

As the sun set on day one, fans made their way across the Cumberland River to Nissan Stadium for sets by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Thomas Rhett, Shaboozey and Chapel Hart (among many others).  The night also featured surprise performances by Post Malone and Blake Shelton.  

Brett Young

A not so quick walk down the famed Broadway on Friday morning and one would realize the packed Thursday crowd had grown enormously for Friday’s festivities.   Shortly after noon, the Reverb Stage reached audience capacity, as fans flocked to see rising sensation Shaboozey perform his blend of hip hop and country sounds, in high energy style.  The Riverfront Stage would follow suit and reach capacity soon after, in anticipation of performances by Niko Moon and Collie Caillat.  Those waiting in the hot sun were treated to sets by Alana Springsteen and BRELAND.  Moon, dressed in neon green and a sun hat, radiated messages of love and positivity, themes that would reoccur through out the weekend.  

Alana Springsteen

The party ramped up Saturday, with The War and Treaty kicking off the festivities on the Riverfront Stage, while Dasha, fresh off a stadium performance the previous night, opened the Chevy Vibes Stage.  Shaylen would draw quite the crowd early afternoon, mixing country and alternative styles in a display of angst and passion.  The afternoon would also see performances form acts such as Restless Road and Ingrid Andress.  Perhaps the star of the afternoon was Tucker Wetmore, who filled the Hard Rock Stage to capacity, and saw fans spill on to Broadway and surrounding streets to try and catch a glimpse of the set.

The War and Treaty

CMA Fest marked a pinnacle moment in the careers for many of the performers  who took the stage over the four day festival.  The War and Treaty preached the need to be your “authentic self” as you strived to achieve whatever goals you set for yourself.  Country-rocker Shaylen became visibly choked up and moved to tears during “What If I Don’t”, a song she wrote soon after moving to Nashville to give her music career one last chance.  Jelly Roll, a Nashville native, lamented on trips to Nissan Stadium with his late father to watch the Titans play and cherished how he was now performing in that same stadium.  In all, it was a weekend dedicated to celebrating and honoring both the successes and rising stars in country music, all the while placing the fan at the forefront.  

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