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Photos: (clockwise) Dierks Bentley ©P.Hullquist for S.Parks Creative, Miranda Lambert ©P.Hullquist for S.Parks Creative, Willie Nelson ©S.Parks Creative, The Mavericks ©P.Hullquist for S.Parks Creative


The four day series of concerts at the CMA Music Fest began


with a welcome to over 71,000 guests by Glen Campbell who sang Rhinestone Cowboy. Over thirty country music superstars followed over the four days at LP Field including Reba, Rascal Flatts, Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean, Hank Williams Jr., Jake Owen, Alan Jackson, Martina McBride, Scotty McCreery, Little Big Town, Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Bill Anderson, the Mavericks and Steel Magnolia. From the stage, several artists shared their previous concert experiences at the field, recalling when they sat in the back row, never dreaming they would one day appear on that stage. Prior to each concert, we spoke with the stars backstage. The


Oak Ridge Boys announced that they may be the only artists who haven’t missed a Fan Fair since 1972. We learned that Jake Owen is not fond of the word ‘fan’ and calls it his ‘friends club’ instead and Blake Shelton said he would only refer to the festival as Fan Fair. There was a surprise presentation of the International Artist Achievement Award to Brad Paisley at LP Field for his outstanding ambassadorship for country music throughout the world. The Mavericks looked stunning and at the top of their game. Dierks Bentley announced his new signature Martin guitar and the Rascal Flatts kept us laughing, as usual. With 450 artists performing over 200 hours of concerts on


numerous free stages, the explosion of joy rivalled the city’s world-renowned fireworks display. Steve Moore, Country Music Association CEO, stated that the ‘…increase in attendance says a lot about the strength of this event, the dedication of our fans, the support of our industry and local community, and the popularity of our music and artists.’ Excitement was also in the air at Fan Fair Hall in the Convention


Centre as 250 artists including Hunter Hayes, Randy Houser, Montgomery Gentry, Heidi Newfield, and Josh Turner arrived at their autograph booths. The street team for Chris Young added an outdoor fan booth as well and distributed neon fans to promote his new release. Being star-struck was not limited to visitors. Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum was waiting to catch a glimpse of Willie Nelson, and Jason Aldean hoped to see Alabama.


Country music lovers lined up to watch their favourite stars walk


the purple carpet into the annual CMT Music Awards programme at Bridgestone Arena. The spectacular televised show was hosted by Toby Keith and Kristen Bell who were brought to the stage through the audience in a giant red solo cup where he proclaimed: ‘Red Solo Cup is just about partying!’ Lady Antebellum owned the night with childhood friends Hot Chelle Rae and the parade of awards, performances and country perfection continued until the spectacular closing with Jonathan Cain and Journey joining Rascal Flatts on Don’t Stop Believin’. Not a venue in Music City sat idle during CMA week. Kellie


Pickler, Little Jimmy Dickens and Larry Gatlin wowed the audience at the Ryman while Lauren Alaina was a block away signing autographs at Opry Originals and Bucky Covington was performing at the Whiskey Bent Saloon three doors down. Kenny Chesney strolled unnoticed through The Stage on Broadway where artists from the UK and Australia, including showstopper Craig Morrison and the legendary Gene Watson, were performing; Rascal Flatts was celebrating their number one song Banjo with chocolate banjos for everyone at Puckett’s Grocery. In the true meaning of the CMA Music Fest, still lovingly known


as Fan Fair, the Grand Ole Opry celebrated its most loyal fan, Paul Eckhart, with the first Opry Fan Award. He has attended each and every Opry show for forty years and enjoys his connection with the artists who appear on the historic Opry stage. Fans continued to be the centre of attention for the week when Carrie Underwood welcomed them to her party at the Grand Ole Opry as well. Only a week later, she would sell out the Royal Albert Hall in London in just ninety minutes. At the end of the Fan Fair week, after the final CMA Fest show,


the emotions building all week ran high, balancing between euphoria and exhaustion, and the ultimate joy and memories and the sadness of saying goodbye until next year. Martina McBride closed the festivities with a tear or two in her eyes after her miraculous voice soared through the stadium and upward to the stars. She shared: ‘All I’ve ever wanted to do since I was four years old was sing. Thank you for making my dreams come true.’ S. Parks


Maverick 17


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