Nashville’s CMA Music Fest may come have to a close on Sunday night, June 12, but you can relive the week-long event with Nash Country Daily’s Top 23 Best Moments. From kick-off parties and charitable events to private shows and nightly concerts, NCD has a recap of 23 of the best moments from the past week.
Chris Stapleton, Nissan Stadium, June 10
Ben Stiller’s character Derek Zoolander couldn’t turn left on the runway. Chris Stapleton has the exact opposite problem: he can’t turn right. If you were sitting on the west side of Nissan Stadium on Friday night, you were treated to a view of Chris’ backside for most of the evening (he likes to turn left and look at his wife when he’s onstage). Fortunately, Chris’ amazing vocals could be heard from all vantage points.
Craig Campbell, Celebrity Cornhole Challenge, June 7
For the fourth year, Craig Campbell hosted his Celebrity Cornhole Challenge to raise money and awareness in the fight against colorectal cancer. After getting ousted in the first round of last year’s tourney, Craig went all the way to the finals this year, where he defeated Canaan Smith—and helped raise more than $35,000.
Alan Jackson, Acme Feed & Seed, June 7
Alan Jackson treated fans to a special Acme Unplugged acoustic show at Nashville’s Acme Feed & Seed on June 7. Alan played more than 20 of his favorite tunes for the intimate crowd, often engaging with the fans and telling many of the stories behind the songs he had written. However, the funniest moment during the show was when a fan approached the stage and tipped Alan $40. Alan replied, “I guess we’re going to Taco Bell tonight.” Watch: Alan Jackson Overcome With Emotion While Singing “Home” at Nashville Performance
Kane Brown, Riverfront Stage, June 10
One year ago, Kane Brown was just a fan attending CMA Music Fest. This year, the internet sensation was playing in front of thousands of people on the Riverfront Stage. If the crowd’s response is any indication, he delivered an outstanding set.
Erin Andrews and J.J. Watt, CMT Music Awards, June 8
Lame jokes and forced banter aside, Erin and J.J just seemed so out of place as co-hosts of the CMT Music Awards. They were awful. Can’t believe I’m saying this, but please bring back Jeff Foxworthy.
Blake Shelton, CMT Music Awards, June 8
The funniest comment of the week came from Blake Shelton when he accepted his trophy for Social Superstar at the CMT Music Awards. “CMT’s Social Superstar? That’s not what I was going for, but what the hell,” Blake said after accepting the award—a new category this year—for being a social media guru. “Man, I have a few drinks and get on Twitter every now and then. I didn’t know you could get paid for that. But damn, see kids, there’s something for you all to strive for.”
Nashville Finds New Home, June 11
Former ABC television show Nashville has found new life. The 60-minute drama was cancelled recently by ABC, but according to The Tennessean on June 11, the CMT network and Hulu streaming service will be airing the show for a fifth season. Looks like we’ll be getting more drama from Rayna, Deacon, Will and the rest of the Nashville gang. TV Show “Nashville” Back For Another Season on CMT
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Nissan Stadium, June 11
After 50 years of making music (yes, seriously), the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band proved they can still bring it with a sterling opening set at Nissan Stadium on June 11. When NGDB broke into the fan-favorite “Fishin’ in the Dark,” the entire stadium joined them in a singalong.
Blake Shelton and the Oak Ridge Boys, Nissan Stadium, June 11
During a brief pause, Blake told the crowd that he wished to make the night “real special,” and did just that by bringing out a legendary foursome. The Oak Ridge Boys bounded to the stage and joined Blake for “Doing It to Country Songs,” segueing seamlessly into the quartet’s beloved classic “Elvira,” easily the coolest moment of the evening. Blake Shelton, Chris Young Bring Out the Special Guests for Day 3 of CMA Music Festival
Sam Hunt, Nissan Stadium, June 10
Based on the screams of female fans inside Nissan Stadium on June 10, it’s safe to conclude Sam Hunt is a favorite of the ladies. But he did more than just stand onstage and look pretty—Sam delivered the most energetic performance of the night, running back and forth across the stage as he got up-close and personal with his fans on tunes like “House Party” and “Take Your Time.” Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton, Sam Hunt and More Rock Concert Stage For a Second Night
Blake Shelton, The Stage, June 10
You didn’t have to wait for Blake Shelton’s Saturday night show at Nissan Stadium to see him in action. On Friday afternoon, Blake surprised fans by holding an impromptu show at The Stage on Broadway. Blake played for more than an hour inside the packed bar, belting out some of his favorite tunes, including “Ol’ Red,” “Honey Bee” and “Austin.”
Darius Rucker and Charley Pride, Wildhorse Saloon, June 6
Darius Rucker and a handful of his like-minded chums took their talents to Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon on June 6 for a sold-out show benefiting St. Jude’s Research Hospital. In addition to performances from Scotty McCreery, Hunter Hayes, LOCASH and Terri Clark, Country Music Hall of Famer Charley Pride joined Darius onstage for a duet of “Kiss an Angel Good Morning.” Darius Rucker, Charley Pride, Scotty McCreery & More Pack the Wildhorse Saloon for St. Jude
Chris Lane, City of Hope Softball Game, June 7
The 26th annual City of Hope Softball Game was a big hit on June 7 as stars like Vince Gill, Scotty McCreery, Cassadee Pope and more helped raise more than $200,000 for cancer and diabetes research. But the biggest hitter of the day was Chris Lane, who his three homeruns and helped his team score 18 runs. Vince Gill, Scotty McCreery, Cassadee Pope & More Help the City of Hope Celebrity Softball Game Raise $200,000
Carrie Underwood, CMT Awards/Nissan Stadium, June 8 and June 10
The two times we caught Carrie Underwood performing during CMA Fest week were spellbinding. First at the CMT Music Awards, on Wednesday night (June 8), where Carrie, backed by a gospel choir, wowed the crowd with a dynamic version of her current single “Church Bells.” But it was the Nissan Stadium nightly concert that saw Carrie at her best. The singer blazed through her vast catalogue of songs, including “Wasted,” “Before He Cheats,” “Undo It” and “Last Name,” all before showing off her fiery harmonica skills on “Choctaw Country Affair.” It’s moments like these that solidify Carrie Underwood’s place among country music’s elite. Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton, Sam Hunt and More Rock Concert Stage For a Second Night
HGTV Lodge, June 9–12
Emceed by GAC’s Suzanne Alexander, the makeshift HGTV Lodge on 4th Ave. hosted a star-studded roster this year, including Keith Urban, Brandy Clark, Kip Moore, Martina McBride, Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott, Frankie Ballard, Cole Swindell and more. For the second year in a row, the Lodge proved it was the place to be for a good time and great music.
Runaway June, Hard Rock Stage, June 10
Fans were packed into the parking lot of the Hard Rock Cafe on June 10 as the sun burned bright. But it was the all-female trio Runaway June—Naomi Cooke, Hannah Mulholland and Jennifer Wayne—that made the scorching temperatures rise. The trio had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands as they launched into original tunes “Wild West” and “Lipstick”—their debut single—and a cover of Eric Paslay’s “She Don’t Love You” (co-written by Jennifer). By the close of their set, Jennifer, Naomi and Hannah proved to be just the trio country music has been longing for. Who’s New: Runaway June
Nash Country Kick-Off Party, Cannery Ballroom, June 7
OK, we’re totally biased, we admit it, but the Nash Country Kick-Off Party was off the hook. Headlined by Kelsea Ballerini, the sold-out show also featured Jon Pardi, Levi Hummon and Barrett Baber of The Voice. Kelsea sang a number of tunes from her debut album, including No. 1 hits “Love Me Like You Mean It” and “Dibs,” before she was joined onstage by Hunter Hayes on “Wanted” and Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott on “Downtown.” Kelsea Ballerini Rocks Nash Country Kick-Off Party With a Little Help From Her Friends
Gary Allan, Country Music Hall of Fame, June 8
Gary Allan and a few of his songwriting buddies put on an intimate performance at the CMA Theater inside the Country Music Hall of Fame on June 8. Playing more than a dozen songs that span his 20-year career, Gary shared the stories behind many of his favorite tunes. The most touching moment came when Gary sang “Best I Ever Had,” which he didn’t write (it’s a Vertical Horizon cover written by Matt Scannell), but he commented that the song gave new meaning to him after his wife’s passing in 2004. Watch Gary Allan Perform Heartfelt “Best I Ever Had” From Country Music Hall of Fame Show
Craig Morgan Album Release Party, Wildhorse Saloon, June 8
Craig Morgan and a few of his friends—including Eric Paslay, Kane Brown and Mac Powell—took their talents to Wildhorse Saloon to celebrate the release of Craig’s new album, A Whole Lot More to Me. Craig, who spent 10 years on active duty in the U.S. Army, treated servicemen and veterans in attendance to free beer, handing out bottles from the stage, before he crooned a cover of Gavin DeGraw’s “Soldier.”
Charlie Daniels and Randy Travis, Nissan Stadium, June 9
2016 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Charlie Daniels was the first to hit the Nissan stage on June 9. In the middle of his set, he stopped the show to bring out his 2016 Hall of Fame cohort Randy Travis. Randy was not able to perform, but seeing him back in front of a crowd was inspirational. Charlie went on to finish his set with a fiery rendition of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
Miranda Lambert, Nissan Stadium, June 9
Miranda came onstage with her usual energetic flare, delivering “Fastest Girl in Town” with a loud and rockin’ sound. After playing “Baggage Claim” and “Mama’s Broken Heart,” Miranda announced, “I’m gonna do one of my favorite cover songs of all time.” She then broke into “Willin’,” a song by Little Feat that Linda Ronstadt made popular on her 1974 album, Heart Like a Wheel. Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley and More Kick Off CMA Fest’s Concert Stage
Keith Urban, Nissan Stadium, June 12
Keith Urban demonstrated his incredible guitar prowess on “Where the Blacktop Ends” and “Somewhere in My Car” before slowing things down slightly with “Break on Me.” There’s always an amazing energy to Keith’s performances, never phoning it in or taking a set for granted. He ran out into the front row of the audience for handshakes and high-fives, then continued playing without barely a pause for a breath. Keith infused his No. 1 hit “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” with a smattering of John Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane”and The Police’s “So Lonely.” Luke Bryan, Keith Urban & More Light Up Day 4 of CMA Music Fest
Luke Bryan, Nissan Stadium, June 12
Closing act Luke Bryan likely summed up audience sentiments with his first number, “That’s My Kind of Night.” When he announced, “The party starts right now,” he was true to his word, delivering an extended set that had the crowd rocking until well past the midnight hour. Fans sang along to “Play It Again” and “Strip It Down” as Luke strutted about the stage. It appeared he would end with “Huntin,’ Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day,” and indeed some folks began to make their way to the exits. But Luke stayed on, initiating a good-natured guitar feud with Keith Urban, who returned to the stage to trade licks with Luke. The two joined forces for “Fishin’ in the Dark” and Brooks & Dunn’s “Hillbilly Deluxe” before Luke took over once more, sending the fans off on a blistering note with “Country Girl (Shake It for Me).” Luke Bryan, Keith Urban & More Light Up Day 4 of CMA Music Fest
NCD would be remiss not to note that both Little Big Town and Luke Bryan mentioned the senseless tragedy that took place in Orlando, Fla., during their performances at Nissan Stadium on June 12. Little Big Town paused midway through their set to deliver “One Dance” with guest performer Pharrell Williams. “We decided we should sing it tonight,” announced LBT’s Karen Fairchild. “We needed healing.” Karen further exhorted the crowd to “show Orlando some love” as the band rendered the song with appropriate emotion. Luke Bryan also took a moment to reflect on the tragedy. As he performed “Drink a Beer,” a poignant number in its own right, Luke addressed the audience. “Something’s been real heavy on my heart today,” he said. “Let’s take a moment of silence for Orlando.”
Nissan Stadium photos of Chris and Morgane Stapleton, Sam Hunt, Carrie Underwood, Charlie Daniels and Miranda Lambert by Jason Simanek; Alan Jackson at Acme Unplugged by Jim Casey; Nitty Gritty Dirt Band by J. Scott Whigham/CMA;