The official kick-off for the CMA Music Festival is, of course, the annual "Kick-Off Parade" held on Lower Broadway in downtown Nashville that also includes several performances afterward at the stage located in front of the Bridgestone Arena.
Artists riding in the parade included Erika Jo, Cowboy Troy, Todd Fritsch, Danielle Peck, Michael Peterson, the PovertyNeck Hillbillies, Kevin Sharp, Two Foot Fred, Taylor Swift, Jimmy Wayne, Keni Thomas, Chris Young and Big & Rich. Some sports stars got into the act as well with NASCAR driver Burney Lamar and pro anglers Luke Clausen and Larry Nixon riding along.
As soon as the parade ended, the music began on a new stage introduced to the CMA Festival in 2006. A large rolling stage was parked in front of the Gaylord Entertainment Center (aka GEC) courtesy of Chevrolet's An American Revolution promotion.
Early-bird fans got a nice surprise when duo Big & Rich, straight out of their Chevrolet parade truck, took the stage with guitars in hand to kick things off. Fans filled the area of the GEC to start their weeklong musical enjoyment. It was appropriate that Big & Rich would kick-off the show with cardboard cut-outs of the two could be found throughout the Chevrolet areas whether it be affixed to scaffolding or even Chevrolet vehicles on large risers.
By the time Little Big Town arrived on stage, there were fans watching from every conceivable place - including upper deck of Rippy's Bar & Grill and even the upstairs windows of the Palm Restaurant! When Karen Fairchild mentioned that she would hint around for a funnel cake if they were at a fair, Jimi Westbrook stepped in quickly and sang his request for prime rib from the nearby establishment. Things continued rolling with bluegrass group, the Grascals, who had the fans dancing on the Plaza. Performing songs from both their latest release and even some that have yet to be released including "Viva Las Vegas" with lead vocalist Terry Eldredge playfully portraying duet partner Dolly Parton - who sang on the studio version - to the best of his ability. There was no mistaking him for Parton. Both, Little Big Town and the Grascals, have since performed on the large stage at the stadium, and have come a long way since performing for small crowds in 2004 at the Kicktone Tailgate Party under a large tent located at 4th & Malloy Streets.
Artists following on the bill for the night included the LoCash Cowboys, Pinmonkey, the PovertyNeck Hillbillies and Emerson Drive to close out the night. The area wasn't short on giveaway items either. Throughout the weekend, some lucky fans caught t-shirts, some were given Chevrolet bracelets (similar to the ones utilized by various charities now) and even free music downloads from MSN® Music through Chevrolet were handed out. GAC was on hand distributing free water bottles, Chevrolet calendars, and various other items.
The performances on that stage were far from over for the week. Sixwire, lead by Andy Childs, hit the stage Thursday afternoon for a rocking performance. As did songwriter, Mark McGuinn on Friday, who silenced the rowdy crowd after a lively performance of his hit, "Mrs. Steven Rudy," when he performed his next single "Deep." Saturday and Sunday performances filled the air with music from new talent Randy Houser, Jerrod Neimann, Damon Smith, Morrison-Williams, Minnie Murphy and Derryl Perry as well as eighties hit-makers David Frizzell and T.G. Sheppard.
Article Written & Submitted by Michelle Durham