It’s now for the country music history books. Beginning as Fan Fair, the incredible event now known as CMA Fest marked it’s fiftieth year, June 8 – 11, 2023 with attendance up 12% over 2022.
Nashville welcomed more than 90,000 country music fans to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the largest and longest-running Country Music festival in the world with a number of record-breaking milestones over four days of almost nonstop music in venues spread across Music City featuring more than 300 acts.Among those milestones: the largest stadium audience in the Fest’s history and international visitors from more than fifty countries and all fifty states of the USA.
As before, all artists were unpaid for their appearances so that the Country Music Association could raise $2.5 million for music education through the CMA Foundation’s Music Education Program. More about how the CMA Foundation is helping music education here: https://thenealagency.net.
Fans brought their energy to Nissan Stadium as well as all the stages and the streets of Nashville. CMA Fest officially kicked off Thursday morning with the Grammy award-winning Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands, followed by reigning CMA New Artist of the Year Lainey Wilson taking the Chevy Riverfront Stage. In addition to the Chevy Riverfront Stage, free outdoor daytime activity included performances at the Dr Pepper Amp Stage, Chevy Vibes Stage, Maui Jim Reverb Stage and, making its return this year, the Hard Rock Stage. Fans also experienced one-of-a-kind programming at Fan Fair X inside Music City Center, along with several brand activations and partners that took over Lower Broadway.
Officially kicking off on Thursday morning with the Grammy award-winning Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands, followed by reigning CMA New Artist of the Year Lainey Wilson taking the Chevy Riverfront Stage, CMA Fest brought an eclectic mix of music to downtown Nashville throughout the entire weekend. In addition to the Chevy Riverfront Stage, free outdoor daytime activity included performances at the Dr Pepper Amp Stage, Chevy Vibes Stage, Maui Jim Reverb Stage and, making its return this year, the Hard Rock Stage. Fans also experienced one-of-a-kind programming at Fan Fair X inside Music City Center, along with several brand activations and partners that took over Lower Broadway.
The evening shows at Nissan Stadium are always guaranteed to thrill fans and attendance was up 10% over the previous year. As always there were numerous surprise collaborations.
Luke Combs welcomed Vince Gill for a powerful performance of “One More Last Chance,” while Carly Pearce brought Jo Dee Messina to the stage for an exciting rendition of “I’m Alright.” Elle King and Tanya Tucker joined Lainey Wilson for an electric performance of “Texas (When I Die).”
The roar of the crowd was deafening as Cody Johnson surprised fans, welcoming Reba McEntire to the stage during “Whoever’s In New England.” The collaborations continued during Miranda Lambert’s set as she performed “If You Were Mine,” alongside Leon Bridges.
Miranda also lit up the stage with Elle King for “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home),” and brought out Avril Lavigne for an energizing medley of Lambert’s “Kerosene” and Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi.” HARDY welcomed Wilson for a stirring performance of “wait in the truck,” while Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson joined the singer for an energizing performance of “One Beer.”
Additional Nissan Stadium highlights throughout the weekend included Jordan Davis who brought fans to their feet during “What My World Spins Around” and “Buy Dirt.” Darius Rucker surprised the audience with two acoustic performances of “Fires Don’t Start Themselves” and “Wagon Wheel.” Fans danced to Tyler Hubbard’s “5 Foot 9” and “Dancing in the Country” as well as Dan + Shay’s “Tequila.” The audience erupted as Jelly Roll surprised fans with performances of “Need A Favor” and “Son of a Sinner.” Keith Urban brought the house down with “Long Hot Summer” and “Somebody Like You.”
Jason Aldean performed fan-favorites “Dirt Road Anthem” and “She’s Country,” capping his set with “Hicktown.” Little Big Town had fans swaying in their seats to “Boondocks” and “Pontoon,” while Old Dominion brought the house down with electrifying performances of “Memory Lane” and “Snapback.” Jon Pardi also hit the stage, performing “Last Night Lonely” and “Your Heart or Mine.” Closing the night on Saturday, Eric Church performed “Bad Mother Trucker” and “Drink In My Hand.”
On Sunday, Alabama surprised audiences with “Mountain Music” and a medley of “Dixieland Delight” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” in addition to being presented the CMA Pinnacle Award by “CMA Fest” co-hosts Dierks Bentley and Elle King. Ashley McBryde hit the stage to perform “Brenda Put Your Bra On” as well as “One Night Standards,” while Bentley’s performance got fans on their feet for “Drunk On A Plane” and “5-1-5-0.”
Tim McGraw performed fan-favorites “Something Like That” and “Real Good Man” while Luke Bryan closed out the 50th celebration of CMA Fest with entertaining performances of “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” and “Rain Is A Good Thing.”
Additional performers at Nissan Stadium included opening acts Messina, Tucker, Tracy Lawrence and Josh Turner, as well as performances from the Platform Stage in the center of the stadium, featuring Ashley Cooke, Dalton Dover, Megan Moroney, Ian Munsick, RVSHVD, Nate Smith, Alana Springsteen, and Hailey Whitters. King Calaway also welcomed the Nissan Stadium crowd Thursday night performing the National Anthem.
The Nighttime Concert at Ascend Amphitheater also returned for a fifth year, with a packed crowd on Friday night. The party kicked off with headliner The Cadillac Three bringing the energy with special guest Little Big Town. Additional acts taking the stage included Boy Named Banjo, Randy Rogers Band, Elvie Shane and Tenille Townes.
Maintaining a fan-favorite tradition, CMA Fest opened the doors to more than 200,000 square feet of air-conditioned fun at Fan Fair X inside Music City Center where artists participated in meet-and-greets and programming on two indoor stages, including the CMA Close Up Stage, which hosted the popular Artist of the Day sessions featuring Bentley on Thursday, McEntire on Friday, Brothers Osborne on Saturday and Wynonna Judd on Sunday.
Other standout programming included two separate segments of a live taping of the Country Heat Weekly podcast on Amazon Music with Jelly Roll and Tanya Tucker.
“CMA Fest,” the three-hour primetime television special hosted by Bentley, King and Wilson, airs Wednesday, July 19 at 8/7c on ABC
Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer, summed it up perfectly: “What a weekend! As we’ve spent the past year reflecting on this milestone celebration, one theme has persisted—the incredible connection between Country Music fans and the artists. It’s magical because it still matters after all these years. From first timers to legends, so many artists started as fans—some as far back as Fan Fair. Almost every artist who performs during the festival has had their own experience as a fan, so for many of them, taking the stage at CMA Fest is a full circle moment. We only get the chance to celebrate our 50th anniversary once, and to do so in such an impactful way has meant the world to us. Thank you, Country Music!”
Next year’s CMA Fest will take place in Nashville Thursday, June 6 through Sunday, June 9, 2024. Sign up for CMA Country Connection emails at CMAfest.com to be the first to know about ticket on-sale dates.
More information on the 50th CMA Fest: https://cmafest.com #CMAFest