Bobby Karl Works The CMA Music Festival: Sunday’s Superstar Lineup

The Band Perry hosted the second annual “The Fans Perry” Fan Club Party at Nashville’s Mercy Lounge during CMA Music Fest. After answering questions from the media at a mini-press conference, the trio posed for pictures and chatted with the 400 fans in attendance. Photo: Ben Krebs.

The Band Perry hosted the second annual “The Fans Perry” Fan Club Party at Nashville’s Mercy Lounge during CMA Music Fest. After answering questions from the media at a mini-press conference, the trio posed for pictures and chatted with the 400 fans in attendance. Photo: Ben Krebs.

SUNDAY, June 9

Pictured (L-R): Grits & Glamour: Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis

Pictured (L-R): Grits & Glamour: Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis. Photo: Alan Mayor

A massive explosion of thunder woke me at 6:45 a.m., and by the time I stumbled to the window, it was pouring. It continued to rain, on and off, all morning. But when the sun broke through at 1 p.m., I headed downtown to join my brothers and sisters at the fest. By Sunday afternoon, my daily treks from Music City Center to Riverfront Park and back again were beginning to feel like the Bataan Death March. But I figured if the fans could still take it, so could I. You might think that by Sunday, all of the good artists would have been used up by the CMA Music Festival. But you would be wrong. At every stop, I encountered something wonderful. The fest stages were batting a thousand.

The Transitions Stage had the superbly melodic, harmony-rich sound of High Valley. This group drew the largest crowd I saw at this venue all weekend. And its female constituency was quite pretty. “We’ve got some sunshine now,” said Shelly Skidmore at the Chevrolet Roadhouse Stage. The Kentucky native had well-written original songs like “It’s a Long Way Down” and “You Could Be the First” and a voice just as refreshing. For those few who caught her set, I’ll bet that one day they’ll want to say that they “saw her when.” Another discovery awaited me at The Buckle on Broadway. A very cool, bluesy, funky string band named Victoria Ghost was delighting the crowd, and me. Who are these kids, and where do I sign up for their fan club?

At the Hard Rock, Alyssa Bonagura’s sizzling lead vocals were fronting a band as snappy as all get out. She was another Sunday-afternoon treat. Alyssa was followed by Stephen Salyers. Although he was on the acoustic stage, his set was punchy and energetic. Down at Riverfront, firebrand Gretchen Wilson was scorching the stage with “Hot Blooded.” Superstar Ronnie Milsap was booked to close this venue on Sunday. Why isn’t this man in the Hall of Fame?

You couldn’t argue with Sunday’s lineup at the Bud Light Stage – Emerson Drive, Katie Armiger and Chuck Wicks, for starters. Bucky Covington and Lauren Alaina held impromptu meet-and-greets on 5th Avenue behind the backstage area following their performances. When I arrived, a group of fans surrounded each as they signed autographs and posed for snapshots. On stage, Canaan Smith delivered an appealing, youthful sound. His songs have been recorded by the likes of Love & Theft, Craig Morgan and Jason Aldean.

Back at Transitions, Kristy Lee Cook was finishing a sprightly set. She was followed by Carly Pearce, who had a groovy, thumping, Dobro-laced sound and a jet-propelled voice. Carly has a Sony development deal. She is another act I think the fans will be proud to say they caught before stardom arrived. Have I mentioned that the Transitions park space was scattered with white tents that held relaxing couches and cooling electric fans? Across the street, Katie Cook was signing copies of her children’s books at the air-conditioned Hall of Fame.

As the 3 p.m. closing of Fan Fair X approached, I hastened to the Music City Center. The last singer-songwriter at the AT&T U-Verse stage was Anne Marie Boskovic. I’m delighted to report that her sweet sound was the best I heard at that venue during the fest. The last notes ringing out from the Durango Stage belonged to The Lonesome River Band. Their gorgeous bluegrass harmonies were appropriately spirit cleansing as the massive hall said farewell to its first Fan Fair experience. Let the record show that the last autographers still standing as Fan Fair X bid us adieu were Chris Young, Will Bannister, Storme Warren, Lee Greenwood, Cassadee Pope and Phoenix Stone. Sharing my last day at the fest were Doug Howard, Jimmy Ritchey, Dale Bobo, Mike Sistad, Ed Salamon and Billy Block. The closing act booked for the BMI Tailgate Party outside LP Field early Sunday evening was the highly entertaining Brazilbilly. These guys prove that seasoning in Nashville nightclubs pays off.

CMA Music Fest Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood Photo: Alan Mayor

Inside the stadium, Pam Tillis & Lorrie Morgan kicked things off with “The Star Spangled Banner.” Lee Greenwood followed. He concluded with his sis-boom-bah “God Bless the U.S.A.” Kix Brooks gave two emotional military families new homes while the stage was prepped for Gary Allan. Gary performed an intense but short set. Brad Paisley’s was even shorter. Organizers were apparently trying to get in as much music as they could before a threatening storm hit. During “Karate,” Brad brought out Charlie Daniels as the fest’s next surprise guest. Fans downloaded a special Brad app so that their phones could be the light show for “Beat This Summer.” The adorable juveniles Lennon & Maisy were up next. They sang their charming duet version of The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey.”

The Band Perry came out with guns blazing. They led with the stomping “Done.” “Nashville, have you had a wonderful week?” asked Kimberly Perry. “I know the rain is coming in, so we have one more for you tonight.” That was the equally stomping “Better Dig Two.” Poor Jake Owen was even briefer. He sang only “Anywhere With You” before leaving the stage. He had been eagerly anticipated, so disappointed fans “booed” because of the brevity of his appearance.

Sunday’s LP Field headliner was Carrie Underwood. She was also cut short, although Brad did reappear to sing “Remind Me” with her. Fans began exiting the stadium a little after 10 p.m. The storm didn’t arrive until 12:30 a.m. Oh well. Better safe than sorry. Fabulons durable enough to still be schmoozing around the CMA hospitality suite by Sunday night included Victoria Shaw, Cindy Owen, Dennis Banka, Charles Dorris, Chuck Aly, Bill Denny and Steve Lassiter. By my calculation, more than 400 artists officially entertained the 80,000 2013 CMA Music Festival attendees. Add the 200-some acts booked into downtown nightclubs that week, the street performers, the week’s Opry entertainers and the folks who sang and played elsewhere in Nashville, I’m guessing that nearly 1,000 people entertained our visitors.

This was the coolest, wettest and biggest CMA fest in history. It was the first without a record store at Fan Fair. It was the first to register a non-human (Levi, the Clydesdale). It must have also been the happiest: Next year’s festival is already half sold out.


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