Stormy weather headed to Nashville early Friday afternoon, but that didn't stop the fans at the CMA Music Festival from enjoying music on several different stages. In fact, the rain provided a much-needed break from the heat and humidity.
I started the day with a trip to the exhibition hall at the convention center. If there's any place to collect free stuff, it's there. I've accumulated so much free stuff (much of it junk, probably) that I'll have a hard time fitting it all on the trip home. I got to visit with Carolina Rain after they finished signing autographs in the exhibition hall. Luckily, I got a chance to see them at the Riverfront Stage and look forward to seeing them on the Grand Ole Opry tonight.
I planned on attending the Montgomery Gentry Fan Club Party, but I couldn't find the venue, the Gibson Cafe, so I ended up getting a quick bite and heading over to the Chevrolet stage in front of the Sommet Center, formerly Nashville Arena and the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
Billy Yates was terrific, and it made me wonder why I hadn't listened to more of his music. I remember he had some radio success in the late 90's, and I hadn't really paid attention to his career since that point. My mistake.
Next up was Sunny Sweeney. One cool thing about Sweeney is that she seems to be a fan herself. She's always wearing T-shirts of country legends like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn. Her music is excellent as well; she performed "Next Big Nothing" and closed out the show with the rollicking "If I Could". And who can't relate to her song, "Ten Years Pass", about going to a high school reunion and revisiting old emotions.
I wanted to get in a little bit of everything, so I traveled towards the Riverfront Stage where Josh Gracin was finishing his set with "Nothin' to Lose". I didn't see Gracin for long, but I could tell by that one song that he's a great entertainer.
I was really excited to see Luke Bryan and it looked like he was having fun out there, laughing and not taking things too seriously. His three-song set was highlighted by the autobiographical ballad, "We Rode in Trucks".
Katrina Elam followed, and the crowd was complaining that the guitar was too loud and they could barely hear her. That all changed with the power ballad "Love Is" and a yodeling song that she used to close the performance.
After that, there was some legendary harmonies, the Oak Ridge Boys, and some new ones, Carolina Rain. It was great to see both groups, representing the past and future of talented country music bands.
The stadium festival was also a big thrill, but the format was once again awkward. Bucky Covington only played two songs. What's the point of even performing? Montgomery Gentry, Sara Evans, Carrie Underwood and Sugarland all turned in strong performances during this "sampler concert". With the acts playing short sets, it gives fans a glimpse of who they'd like to go see live in their hometown.
I would have to like see Montgomery Gentry and their special guest Ted Nugent perform one of the MG songs, but they only did "Cat Scratch Fever".
And Evans announced that she has a greatest hits package coming out later this summer. Wow, time sure has flown by. She never performs any songs from her excellent debut album, Three Chords in the Truth. I imagine the Greatest Hits will consist of her commercially successful hits, not the tradition-soaked 1996 debut album, but it would be cool to see one or two songs make it on there.
It was announced that Rascal Flatts will be the surprise guest on tonight's show. I wouldn't mind seeing them, but I'd much rather check out the Opry. I've watched it on television so many times and read many books about it's history.
Plus, I'm going to see Mel Tillis get inducted, possibly. I don't know if the induction ceremony is during the first show or the second, but I'll be at the first. Still, it's a special night to see such a legendary performer/songwriter get an Opry membership. Plus, he's one of the few Opry members that I've written a feature store on, check out Music City News archives to see the feature on Mel and Pam Tillis touring together.