The sun glaring off of the glass windows lining each downtown building, heat painting beads of sweat down every red face in the sea of concert goers. Yes, it is CMA Fest season, the week so many die-hard country music fans wait for every year. With huge headliners such as Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley and Carrie Underwood this year's festival drew in over 100,000 attendees.
Between the large selection of stages all throughout downtown and along the Cumberland River, everyone is sure to find the perfect location to enjoy each day's variety of artists. I was inspired by Cam's performance of her new song Diane which is the mature and honest discussion between two women both hurt by the same man. It teaches girls and women of all ages not to be pitted against each other but instead stand together. Next Women of Country inductee, Abby Anderson, had fans to their feet in dance for her set at the Radio Disney Country Stage. Starting off with her song This Feeling she also broke out into our favorite Aretha Franklin anthem Respect.
Briskly weaving through thousands of bodies in a tightly packed crowd I made my way to as many stages as possible, including the Chevy Breakout Stage featuring powerhouse artists such as Ashley McBryde, Ashley Campbell and one of my favorite voices, Kassi Ashton. Taking the radio waves by storm, Kassi Aston's Taxidermy is the ballad of a very serious warning that will be stuck in your head in the best way possible. Heading on over to the Maui Jim Broadway Stage at Hard Rock Cafe I caught Natalie Stovall just in time to sing along to Wine or Whiskey. Sometimes we could all use wine and whiskey! In this heat, however, I stuck to water.
If I wanted a much-needed breeze the Chevy Riverfront Stage was perfect. My go-to car karaoke sessions as of late are dedicated to Hide the Wine by Carly Pearce, Take You Home by Cassadee Pope and Criminal by Lindsay Ell so I couldn't miss them performing to an audience at capacity! Speaking of capacity, the nightly concerts at Nissan Stadium were sold out with over 60,000 seats filled. My best memories from this year's festival came from these four consecutive nights. I'll remember looking to my right to see Randy Travis smiling, enjoying each performer including Luke Bryan who covered two of Randy's songs as tribute. I'll remember how Luke Bryan stood directly over me noticing a young woman in the front row who obviously attended this festival to see him. She knew every single word to every song and I swear she was going to explode into glitter when he put his arms around her. I'll never forget photographing Carrie Underwood for the first time, capturing her power and beauty, marveling at her stunning, green sequined romper. What in incredible voice and presence. Like Luke Combs, I'll always remember the symphony of a stadium singing Hurricane, a song that evokes nostalgia from my first few months living in Nashville to chase my dreams.
CMA Fest is all about bringing people from all walks of life together. They might not have anything else in common but their love for country music and that is what unites them. It's a beautiful event when we can all come together under music. This festival is an intense four days of miles walked, sore feet, soaring temperatures and little to no sleep but I'm always sad to see it go and I look forward to next year.