Bobby Karl Works The Room: CMA Music Fest 2017 Wraps With Superstar Performances


Chapter 568

Levon. Photo: Levon/Twitter

Despite thousands of Bonnaroo attendees coming back into town, the CMA Fest throng and Predators fans arriving for a crucial Game Six of the Stanley Cup playoffs downtown, the Armageddon of crowd control did not occur on Sunday afternoon (June 11).

While I was there, the streets were still dominated by the CMA fans. Many were buying souvenirs on the last day of the Fest. In the Marketplace district of Fan Fair, jewelry seemed to be the most popular take-home items.

Each major label had its own strategy during the Fest. Sony set up a Pop-Up store inside the Omni Hotel lobby. It sold both LPs and CDs. You could also purchase black t-shirts bearing the logos of RCA, Columbia or Arista.

There were charming freebies, too – Luke Combs combs, sleep masks with Chris Young’s “Losing Sleep” imprinted on them, Kenny Chesney cardboard fans and the like. John Zarling was there picking up a pair of Miranda Lambert plastic “Pink Sunglasses” for his daughter. Across from the pop-up, Lanco was hosting a coffee-shop event. Kane Brown, Levon and Cam also put in appearances.

Over on Third Avenue South, Big Machine had also set up a pop-up store. The scintillating Delta Rae closed things out there with a show that delighted fans late Sunday afternoon.

The Warner strategy continued to be hosting fan-club parties at its Music Row office. On Sunday, it held events for High Valley, Charlie Worsham and Michael Ray.

UMG set up a big dome at the corner of McGavock & 8th Avenue South. The label projected music films on its 70-foot ceiling all festival long. On Sunday, the visuals were augmented with performances by Brandon Lay, Clare Dunn, Temecula Road and Eric Paslay.

The best music I heard on Sunday – and, indeed, among the best of the entire Fest – was the harmony-drenched Dailey & Vincent set at Fan Fair’s Durango Music Spot.

Over on the CMA Close-Up Stage, Danny Shirley, Terry McBride and Mark Wills were taking part in a nostalgic panel discussion about country music in the 1990s. All three have always been good talkers.

Closing out the autograph sessions at Fan Fair on Sunday were Jeff Bates, Chris Janson, Easton Corbin, Stephanie Quayle, Luke Combs, The Railers, Darryl Worley, Georgette Jones, Exile, Scotty McCreery, Rian Paige, Seth Innis and Brett Young, among others.

Pictured (L-R): DeStefano, Scott Hendricks (EVP A&R, WMN), Justin Luffman (VP Brand Management, WMN), Nick Hartley (Fitzgerald Hartley Management), Morgan Evans, Cole Swindell, Peter Strickland (CMO, WMN)

Out at the Chevy Park stage, I was stunned to see/hear hundreds of fans singing along with Morgan Evans. “It’s amazing,” said Neil Spielberg in wonderment. They knew all the words to this handsome Australian star’s “If I Didn’t Love You,” despite the fact that he’s still relatively obscure stateside. Morgan is perhaps best known for being engaged to Kelsea Ballerini.

Down at Riverfront, Maddie & Tae, Chase Bryant, Canaan Smith and Home Free were among those slated to close the daytime CMA Fest Sunday shows. Here again, Broadway was still dominated by CMA attendees.

But by the time I left at 3:30 p.m., the tide was beginning to turn. A constant parade of people wearing gold Predators jerseys was now streaming into downtown from all directions. Many were headed for a huge viewing party in Ascend Amphitheater. When the puck dropped, there were 60,000 hockey fans on the streets of Nashville.

Country fans still had plenty to cheer about. Phil Vassar booked a free concert for the viewing-party attendees in Hall of Fame Park at 5:15 p.m. Vince Gill and Dierks Bentley appeared amid the crazies on Broadway to introduce Luke Bryan’s performance to salute the playoff. Vince has held Preds season tix since Day One. Dierks and his band actually play hockey.

Luke entertained CMA folks as well as Predators fans from the roof of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge at 6 p.m. This was shown on all of the jumbo screens situated on the streets.

“It’s so inspiring to see where they [the Predators] have come from,” Luke said before the show. “A Southern team to have come this far is such a rarity. Nashville is laying a foundation. My boys are hooked [on hockey] for life.”

Tim McGraw at Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals. Photo: Faith Hill/Twitter

Mayor Megan Barry joined him at his free show. Faith Hill then rocked Bridgestone by singing the National Anthem. Tim McGraw hyped the crowd with whoop-it-up towel waving.

Over at Nissan Stadium, half of the TV monitors in the CMA Hospitality Suite were tuned to the game during the evening concert. Stormie Warren co-hosted the show with ABC-TV’s The Goldbergs star Hayley Orrantia. And weren’t we thrilled when she told us we’d be seeing Brad Paisley later on the show?

Restless Heart did The National Anthem in harmony. Tracy Lawrence unleashed a barrage of classic hits. Darius Rucker brought out Karen Fairchild to duet on “If I Told You” and Old Crow Medicine Show to perform “Wagon Wheel” with him. His reliable, blandly pleasant style went over extremely well.

Song for song, Little Big Town can hold its own with anyone in this industry. Collectively and individually they are also among our finest singers. Capping the night were the massive fan favorites Keith Urban and Brad Paisley, the latter of whom earlier hoisted a catfish at Bridgestone Arena.

Brothers Osborne perform during 2017 CMA Music Festival. Photo: Brothers Osborne/Instagram

But the act that stole the show on Sunday night was Brothers Osborne. Subbing for an injured Chris Stapleton, John and T.J. Osborne lit the stadium on fire and burned it to the ground. By the time the CMA Vocal Duo of the Year winners finished with the one-two assault of “Stay a Little Longer” and “It Ain’t My Fault,” the entire place was roaring, clapping along, dancing and screaming in ecstasy.

With their relentless, driving intensity and rousing showmanship, these guys made 50,000 converts that night. ABC is insane if it doesn’t put them on the CMA Fest TV special. We have no one else like Brothers Osborne.

Working the room in the CMA Suite were Victoria Shaw, Stuart Dill, Amy Smartt, Dennis Banka (maintaining his perfect attendance record), Aaron Hartley, Karen Clark, Melissa Maynard and Metro District 19 Councilman Freddie O’Connell.

Backstage, Tracy, Darius and LBT all commented about how jazzed this community has been about the Preds. Alas, we lost. The Pittsburgh Penguins went home with The Stanley Cup.

Tickets for next year’s CMA Music Festival will go on sale on June 27. The Fest will launch on June 7, 2018, as will Bonnaroo. To date, the CMA fest has raised $17.5 million for music education.




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