It is every country music fan’s favorite time of year! CMA Fest takes over Nashville, TN for an epic four day music festival that takes place yearly in the month of June. CMA Fest 2017 ran from June 8-10th and featured an absolutely flawless line-up of country’s biggest and brightest stars. CMA Fest features an amazingly diverse group of artists that provide the audience with some incredibly memorable performances, so of which include several surprise guests along the way!

Day one of CMA Fest was completely sold-out and fans were packed around the Riverfront stage from morning till night. In fact, this year was so sold-out the sadly some fans were not even make it in to take part in this year’s festivities. The spirit of music was alive and well throughout the entire city and it was an honor to witness everyone coming together in unity to celebrate country music at it’s finest.

Old Dominion kicked off day one with their highly anticipated set and it was a rockin’ way to start the day. Talk about a wake-up call! Many fans spent hours waiting in line to enter the Chevrolet Riverfront stage and Old Dominon front man Matthew Ramsey showed his appreciation for the fans dedication by saying, “For the first thing of the day, we appreciate you getting up and showing up early for this, this is amazing.” The band performed a solid set and ended with their smash hit “Song For Another Time”.

The rest of day was a complete whirlwind of music and mayhem as we caught rising country artist Lacy Cavalier’s rocking set on the Radio Disney Country stage, before jetting over to watch Jon Pardi kick a little “dirt off his boots” wearing his signature cowboy hat. Pardi had us captivated for his 30 min set and witnessing his rise to success has been absolutely incredible. Next up was an unplugged and very intimate set from Maren Morris on the HGTV stage who performed only for the lucky fans who won their way into the very special performance. Morris spent time greeting the fans as she entered the HGTV Lodge and performed hits such as “My Church” and “80’s Mercedes”.  After spending some time up close and personal with Morris it was time to head over and catch some Locash. Locash performed an extraordinary set that included their hits such as “I Know Somebody” and their latest single “Ring On Every Finger.” In an adorable and heartwarming moment, Locash brought their children out on stage to finish out their set with “I Love This Life” and we certainly bet they do!

CMA Fest can often times be filled with surprise guests and you just never know who will random pop up during any given performance. Singer Michael Ray even commented during his set “I love CMA Fest because you never know who’s going to pop up”. He continued, “He’s my hero, I’m so honored to call him a friend and to be label mates with him. He paved the way for country music, ladies and gentleman, Randy Travis.” The fans went wild as the legendary and country music hall of famer, Randy Travis entered the stage. Ray and Travis performed a cover of Travis’s hit “Forever And Ever Amen” and Travis finished the song by saying “forever and ever/Amen”, as the crowd broke into a standing ovation and tears were flowing from every direction you glanced. Travis’s face was lit up by a smile throughout the entire 2 to 3 minute performance and exited the stage to the fans chanting his name as well as a standing ovation. It was a performance that everyone was talking about throughout the rest of the weekend.

Other surprises that occurred during day one was when Kane Brown brought out singer Lauren Alaina to perform their duet “What Ifs”. In a humbling moment during his performance Brown recognized his very successful 2016 and thanked the crowd saying “Thank you for giving me one hell of a 2016!”. He spoke about the tours he did with the likes of Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean, as well as his singles that continue to conquer at country radio across the nation. Brown performed hits from his “Chapter 1” album that included “Thunder In The Rain”, “Hometown” and closed out his set with his huge hit single “Used To Love You Sober”.

Continuing on, some very lucky fans were treated to a surprise Q&A session in the HGTV Lodge with none other than Garth Brooks and his lovely wife Trisha Yearwood. The super intimate Q&A was only attended by about 100 to 200 people and the couple chatted with fans for about 20 minutes. Fans who were not fortunate enough to make it inside stood perched outside the HGTV Lodge just hoping to catch a glimpse of these two megastars! Throughout the rest of the afternoon we caught Locash once again, this time performing acoustically on the Radio Disney Country stage inside. The band also conducted a Q&A for Radio Disney as well. We then rushed over to catch a drink with Chris Janson who performed a highly energetic set for the fans. Janson had wonderful interaction with the crowd and was super hyped to announce that his new album would be releasing at midnight and urged the crowd in attendance to be sure and pick up a copy. Let’s hope they obliged!

Singer Chase Rice ended the festivities on the outdoor Riverfront stage with a rockin’ set. The fans enjoyed every moment of it from beginning to end. Rice performed his stripped down latest single “If I’m Being Honest” and the fans were singing each and every word. Rice is always a fan favorite and his performances are always top-notch giving fans 110% with a highly entertaining set that is filled with a fantastic selection of songs from his extensive catalog of hits. Rice ended his set with a massive applause from the crowd. Then making his exit by running through the audience, awarding each of them with high-fives and thanking everyone for taking the time to come out to see him or for attending CMA Festival.

As nighttime fell over Nashville and CMA Fest, we moved over to the Ascend Amphitheater, otherwise known as the Cracker Barrel Country Roads stage as well as Nissan Stadium for the larger acts on the bill. The Oak Ridge Boys got the nighttime performances off to a great start and performed a solid mix of their classic hits on the Cracker Barrel Country Road stage. Next up with a gorgeously dressed Deana Carter who wowed the fans with her spirited performance. Fans were eager to hear Carter’s hit single “Did I Shave My Legs For This?” and when she delivered they were belting out each and every word. The audience went wild when singer Billy Ray Cyrus took the stage and he opened his set with a brand-new song titled “Bring The Stanley Cup To Tennessee” to show his support for the Nashville Predators hockey team who were currently in Stanley Cup finals during CMA Fest this year. Cyrus continued his set with the rousing “Tenntucky” performed with his pal Mark Collie and then welcomed his daughter Brandi Cyrus to the stage to play guitar on his hit song “Achy Breaky Heart“. Wife Tish Cyrus and daughter Miley Cyrus were also in the house and could be seen cheering on their family patriarch while dancing and singing to each and every song of his set from the side of the stage.

To close out day one of CMA Fest, Big & Rich graced the Cracker Barrel Country Roads stage and these boys certainly know how to bring the party to Nashville. Their phenomenal set was beyond incredible. It was so much fun and without a doubt flawless. They of course played their hit “Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy”, but also blended a ton of other hits into their set and cracked jokes with the audience the throughout their entire performance. The group also took a few moments to stop and thank everyone in the audience who has served in the Armed Forces and even brought up a good friend of theirs who had served his country and serenaded him with a song. It was a truly touching moment.

Over at the Nissan Stadium on day one of CMA Fest there were also performances from Cole Swindell, Miranda Lambert, Kenny Rogers, Brett Eldredge, Dierks Bentley and a very surprise performance from country music icon Garth Brooks. Rounding out the evening was a performance from country fan favorite Luke Bryan to bring CMA Fest day one to a marvelous close. CMA Fest day one was a huge success and day two will have a lot to live up to, however we have no doubt it will be utterly fantastic.

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Andrew Wendowski is the Founder and CEO of Music Mayhem. As a 29-year-old entrepreneur, he oversees content as the Editor-In-Chief for the independent brand. Wendowski, who splits time between Philadelphia, Penn., and Nashville, Tenn., has an extensive background in multimedia. Before launching Music Mayhem in 2014, he worked as a highly sought-after photojournalist and tour photographer, collaborating with such labels as Interscope Records and Republic Records. He has captured photos of some of the biggest names, including Taylor Swift, Metallica, Harry Styles, P!NK, Morgan Wallen, Carrie Underwood, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Shania Twain, and hundreds more. Wendowski’s photos and freelance work have appeared nationwide and can be seen everywhere from ad campaigns to various publications, including Billboard and Rolling Stone. When Wendowski isn’t running Music Mayhem, he enjoys spending time at concerts, traveling, and capturing photos.

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