Bobby Karl Works CMA Music Festival (Part 3)

Alan Jackson performs at LP Field. Photo: CMA


Morning drizzle and showers cooled the temperature, but also thinned the crowds downtown on Sunday afternoon (6/10). The AT&T and Cisco Fan Fair Hall was the first to fold up its tent. But what a way to go: the dynamic bluegrass band Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out was on schedule to close out the Durango Acoustic Stage at 3:00 p.m.

I asked Manuel how his booth had fared. “It was our first year,” he replied. “We’re learning. We’ll try again next year.” I suggested, “Try small things, like bandanas.”

Before we leave this venue, I must give a shout-out to the street team working for Chris Young. Like last year, they covered the sidewalks outside the Hall with colorful chalk “CY” slogans. Also, his “Neon” cardboard fans were omnipresent at the Fest.

Hundreds poured out of the Convention Center and down the street to the Bud Light Bridgestone Stage. Charlie Worsham was supposed to be entertaining at the time, but wasn’t there. Angie Johnson, Robin Meade and The Hummingbirds were booked to close out this stage.

Volleyball at Hall of Fame park. Photo: CMA

At the Bic Soleil Bella Beach, long, lean Stephanie Quayle was laying down a very cool, groove-soaked sound. “I am so thrilled to be here,” she told the thin but enthusiastic audience. “This is my first CMA Music Festival performance.” She was, in fact, one of the best female “unknowns” I heard all weekend. The excellent Mustang Sally Band and Eric Lee Beddingfield were scheduled to be the finale acts at the Beach. Once again, a volunteer volleyball game was in full swing.

The Beach host was the first to thank the sound tech and stage crew who kept that stage running smoothly. One by one, each of the other venues did the same. In order to put on CMA Fest and Bonnaroo simultaneously, it takes not only every single member of the stage-hands union (IATSE) in Nashville, but those of Knoxville and Memphis and those of almost every Tennessee bordering state.

These are some hard-working folks. There are 16 hours of concerts at LP Field, alone, and at least 24 hours each at the Durango, Bridgestone, Beach and Hard Rock stages, and 30+ hours at Riverfront.

Over at the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon (6/10), the store was full of last-minute shoppers. Indeed, all of the souvenir shops downtown were jammed and hopping.

Scotty McCreery with a fan. Photo: CMA

Officials estimate that each Fest registrant spends between $1,200 and $1,600 while in Nashville. That sounds low to me, but at $1,500 times 70,000, that is $105 million spent. Another official stat is that the attendees drop about $30 million in sales taxes.

Flynnville Train was tapped to close out the four days of music at the Chevrolet Roadhouse Stage. Nearby, Luke Bryan was amiably autographing as the finale attraction at The Lodge.

In Fan Alley, Hunt Brothers Pizza was still at it, dishing up free slices steadily, as before. Likewise, the free Blue Bell ice cream cups were still being dispensed in the Buckle zone.

Other free food at the Fest included the yummy grilled sausages on sticks presented at the corner of Broadway and 3rd Ave. by the History Channel to promote its “Cross Country Cookout” show and the free samples of Papa’s Italian Ice being doled out at Riverfront’s entrance. On Sunday, representatives of Edens Edge were passing out free candy sticks in the Buckle zone as well. Jack in the Box’s Jack Burger Truck was parked on Lower Broad giving away Jumbo Jack burgers. I’m not kidding: These were the full-size Real Deals.

Chad Freeman & The Red Line were rocking the Hard Rock’s stage, a little too loudly, I thought. Sunday fare scheduled there also included Erin Enderlin, Adam Sanders and Walker Hayes.

“It’s wonderful,” said Ed Salamon of the Fest. “It’s more music than you can possibly consume.”

The Chevrolet Riverfront Stage area was about 3/4 full, and the crowd was much less rowdy (give them a break, it was Sunday, after all). But Brett Eldredge was giving them an energetic show anyway.

Almost all of the many boaters on the Cumberland who had been behind this stage on Saturday, had vanished by late Sunday afternoon.

The Mavericks backstage at LP Field. Photo: Alan Mayor

It began to drizzle around 3:45 p.m. and by 4:00, a light rain was falling. Stage-closing Wade Bowen and Lorrie Morgan and their “show-must-go-on” spirits prevailed.

By the way, ASCAP’s backstage hospitality at Riverfront was lovely. Where else at the Fest could you find something as healthy, hygienic and delish as individually packaged portions of hummus, pita bread, eggplant salsa and Tennessee trail mix?

By the time we hit LP Field (6/10), the skies were overcast but dry. The Mavericks kicked things off, complete with accordion and a horn section. Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson turned in a nice, acoustic mini set.

Then came Scotty McCreery. After winning at Wednesday’s CMT Awards, he returned home to North Carolina to graduate from high school on Thursday. Rushing back to Nashville to sing was all in a day’s work. During his senior year, he earned a Platinum Record for his debut CD, two Gold singles and two New Artist awards, in addition to pitching for his high school’s baseball team. He graduated with honors, by the way.

Dierks Bentley at the nighttime concerts at LP Field. Photo: Alan Mayor

Host Evan Farmer next brought out Dierks Bentley, who fired ‘em up with “Am I the Only One” and “Sideways.” Then he brought out LBT’s Karen Fairchild to duet on “When You Gonna Come Around.” There was some question about whether Dierks would be there. His father died at the beginning of the week. Nevertheless, he gave the fans his all. Steel Magnolia, Rascal Flatts, Alan Jackson and Martina McBride ensued, bringing the fabulous Fest to its conclusion.

Relaxing and schmoozing in the CMA hospitality suite were Hank Adam Locklin, Debbie Miller & Bill Purcell, MusicRow’s Eric Parker, Melissa Maynard, Bill Deutsch (you vets might remember him from Sound 70; he’s now in the convention biz in Florida), John Dorris, Brandi Simms, Aaron Hartley and Horton Frank.

Attendee John Briggs has a cool new gig. He’s working with the new musical The Nutty Professor. It has its world premiere in Nashville at TPAC on July 24, prior to heading for Broadway. It is being directed by comedy immortal Jerry Lewis, who created the 1963 film of the same name. The book and lyrics are by Rupert Holmes (“Escape: The Pina Colada Song” to you pop fans, The Mystery of Edwin Drood to you musical-comedy nerds). Marvin Hamlisch (“The Entertainer”) is writing the music and conducting.

Here’s an important suite visitor: Bill Hagerty. He’s the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development, the man primarily responsible for job creation in this state.

This year, fans came to CMA Music Festival from all 50 states and 23 foreign countries. They booked 110,000 hotel-room nights. That takes a lot of support staffing.

More than 400 artists participated. And they all have employees. So come and visit next year, too, Bill. We’ll be here. With jobs to do.

Fans pack the Riverfront concerts.


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