SATURDAY, JUNE 11:
Saturday was the hottest day of the festival, as well as Nashville’s so far this year. The thermometer topped out at 94 degrees on Saturday afternoon. During the steamiest hours, 419 were treated and six had to go to the hospital because of heat issues.
The day began with Martina McBride on the CMA Close-Up stage in the mercifully air-conditioned Music City Center. The superstar drew by far the largest audience of this year’s Fan Fair X bookings. The massive crowd spilled way past the venue’s boundaries, reached back to the far wall and took up nearly a third of the huge convention center’s floor space.
She shared stories about her life and career, answered fans’ questions and performed with songwriters The Warren Brothers (“Anyway” and “Teenage Daughters,” both of which she co-wrote with them), Hailey Whitters (celebrating her first cut as a writer with Martina’s version of “Low All Afternoon”) and Sarah Buxton (who co-wrote Martina’s new album’s first two singles, the title tune, “Reckless,” and “Just Around the Corner,” which debuted during the Fest). People simply adore Martina. The gig was a giant success.
Also on hand at Fan Fair X on Saturday were Bill Anderson, Lorrie Morgan, Irlene Mandrell, Sarah Darling, Mark Wills and John Berry, among many more.
We emerged into the blazing sunlight and began to walk. And walk. Jamie Lynn Spears was warbling on the Chevy Cruze Stage. The Hard Rock had Levi Hummon. We caught the tail-end of Corey Smith’s set at Riverfront, then watched as Jana Kramer charmed the crowd with her verve.
At Ascend Amphitheater, The Marshall Tucker Band left the crowd yelling, “More!” Sorry people, no encores. The Fest has to stay on schedule. On cue, Endless Summer began a sweet-sounding set on the venue’s acoustic stage on the other side of the lawn. Brazilbilly then brought the main stage back to life.
The new Music City Stage inside the Bridgestone Arena’s Visitor Center only held about 100, so the singer-songwriters booked usually had full houses. “I’ve been in Nashville for six years, and this is my first time to perform at CMA Fest,” said an appreciative Doug McCormick to his crowd.
Working the “room” during the daylight hours were Daniel Miller, Tony Conway, Ree Guyer Buchanan, Tom Corley and Steve Lassiter.
Went home. Put my blazing feet up for a rest. Changed clothes. Freshened up. Headed for the stadium.
After The Marshall Tucker Band performed “The Star Spangled Banner,” Nitty Gritty Dirt Band took the Nissan stage. Celebrating their 50th anniversary as a band, they zipped through favorites including “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” “Mr. Bojangles” and “Fishin’ in the Dark.” The last-named’s co-writer, Jim Photoglo, is now playing bass in the NGDB.
Squeals of delight pierced the evening air as Chris Young took the stage. His hit-packed set included his new single “Sober Saturday Night” and concluded with the sparks-flying Cassadee Pope duet “Think of You.” It was the finest vocal performance of the night. Backstage, Chris and Cassadee were presented with gold awards for the single. Chris was born on June 12, or as he put it to the crowd, “I’m celebrating the 10th anniversary of my 21st birthday” at CMA Fest.
Cole Swindell kicked his set off with “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight” and romped onward. Fans lit their cell phone lights when he sang his ballad “You Should Be Here.” The hits of Florida Georgia Line drew even more enthusiastic crowd response.
Steven Tyler brought out Martina McBride as his surprise guest on a blazing version of the 1993 Aerosmith classic “Cryin.’”
“He called me at home,” Martina said beforehand. “At first, I didn’t know who it was. When I realized it was him, I mouthed the words, ‘It’s Steven Tyler!’ to my daughters and motioned for them to listen in. We were so excited.”
Rollicking good ol’ boy Blake Shelton made superstardom look easy during his Saturday finale performance. Highlights included “Boys Round Here” and his new “She’s Got a Way With Words.” The Oak Ridge Boys were his surprise guests.
Fabulons gabbing and grinning in the hospitality suite included Michael Martin, Michael Cass, Scott Hendricks, Pat Collins, Paul Barnabee, Sally Seitz and Biff Watson. One of the evening’s stage hosts was super singer-songwriter Chuck Wicks.