On Thursday, the first official day of CMAFest, Jake Owen was the kick off concert at the Riverfront stage. Gates opened at 9 and by 10:00 the area was at it’s 6500 person capacity and they had to quit letting people in. We had gotten in about 9:45 and made our way down to the “pit” right in front of the stage.
Jake arrived to the stage via boat. He docked, hopped in a golf cart and they brought him to the stage. He looked great in his barefeet, white t and American Flag print swim trunks. He sounded great too. He seemed really pumped to be there, kicking things off.
He started the set out with a new song, “American Love”. He then did some old favorites like “The One That Got Away”, “Alone with You” and even older than that “Yeehaw” and “8 Second Ride”. He tried out another new song on us that was written by Chris Stapleton called “Good Company”.
Jake seemed to be having a blast performing and the crowd was definitely having a blast watching/hearing him perform. He played for an hour and then ended his set.
Alot of people left the Riverfront stage after Jake’s set ended but we stayed to hear A Thousand Horses. I was excited to get to hear them because it had been a few months since we had seen them. They are out on the Jason Aldean tour, so not many chances for us to see them. They started their set with “Southernality”. They did “Heaven Is Close”, “Travelin’ Man”, “Trailer Trashed”, “This Ain’t No Drunk Dial” and rounded out their 30 minute set with “Smoke”.
After A Thousand Horses, we headed to the Chevy Cruz Park stage to hear Josh Thompson. It had really been a long time since we had seen Josh. I miss the days of logging all of those miles going from show to show to see Josh. They were so fun.
Josh started his set with “Same Ol, Plain ol Me” which was easy to tell that the crowd had no idea what he was singing. He had drawn a decent crowd to the stage. “Blame It On Waylon” was next and more of the crowd was singing along. He did “Cold Beer With Your Name On It” then “Way Out Here” which the crowd really got into. Then a tribute to his hero, Merle Haggard, with “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink”. Of course he ended his set with “Beer on the Table”, another fan favorite.
It was cool seeing Josh again after all this time. He’s still the same ‘ol Josh. Made me really miss all those days of going from place to place to see him.
We headed over to FanFairX at 12:30 to do a meet and greet with A Thousand Horses. The line was pretty long but once they came out and started signing and taking pics the line moved pretty quickly.
About 7:00 we headed over to Nissan Stadium….so hard to call it that after years of saying LP Field. We had different seats this year from the previous two years so we were hoping they were good seats. Much to our surprise they were great seats. We were ready for the night. Bring on the music.
The Oak Ridge Boys came out about 7:45 to sing the National Anthem. As always the Oak Ridge Boys sounded great.
Charlie Daniels came out next. It looked as if he had lost a lot of weight from the last time we saw him. He looked great. He can sure make that fiddle talk. During his set he said he was thrilled to be a Country Music Hall of Fame inductee and he wanted to bring out another one as well. With some assistance Randy Travis came walking out. The crowd gave Randy a standing ovation. Even though he didn’t speak he was grinning from ear to ear. Charlie ended his set with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”.
Next to hit the big stage was Kelsea Ballerini in her confetti clad romper. She seemed so happy and excited to be there. She came on stage with “Sirens”, on to “Yeah Boy” and “Dibs”. Before she started her current single “Peter Pan” she asked that everyone take out their cell phones and light the place up. She said that three years ago she sat in one of the sections wondering what it would look like to stand on that stage. Her last song was “Love Me Like You Mean It”, which she found out backstage had gone Platinum.
Dierks Bentley came onto the stage full speed with “Somewhere on a Beach” and he never slowed down rolling through his 5 song set. The only time he put the brakes on slightly was to do “I Hold On”. Dierks ended up on a stage out in the middle of the field and had a special guest join him. Elle King was there to sing “Different for Girls”. His set ended with “Drunk on a Plane”and the audience standing and singing along.
About 9:45, Miranda Lambert strutted on stage in a black top, short silver skirt, cowboy boots and brought everyone immediately to their feet with “Fastest Girl in Town”. Miranda’s performance was pure sass and attitude as she went from “Baggage Claim” to “Mama’s Broken Heart” to a bit of “Your Red Wagon” that came before she did “Little Red Wagon”. She did a cover of “Willin’ “. She said it was her 10th year as an artist to be at CMAFest and 15th year altogether. She said she’d keep comin’ as long as they wanted her too. She sang “White Liar” and finished out the set with the very kick ass “Gunpowder and Lead”.
Social Media immediately blew up with people wondering what brought on such an attitude filled set by Miranda. Were people reading to much into it or was their really some anger she was working out. The best tweet I saw said “To Blake: Kiss My Ass”. Whatever the reason, she was bad ass and I think everyone enjoyed her set.
Rascal Flatts had a hard act to follow but they gave it their best shot. They started out their set with a perfect song “Summer Nights”. During their set Maren Morris came out to do her song “My Church”. The guys sang “back up” for her. We have mixed feelings about this. Yeah, if you like Maren it was a nice surprise however, everyone knows she was thrown into their set just for the ABC TV Special Country’s Night to Rock that airs in August because their was no connection between Rascal Flatts and Maren. For Rascal Flatts and their fans, it sucked they lost time for more of their music.
Next was another surprise. Thomas Rhett, who is hosting Country’s Night to Rock with Brett Eldridge, appeared out in the middle and introduced Cam and Lady A, who were not on the schedule for the stadium. Again, a thing for the ABC show. So Cam and Lady A sing Cam’s hit, “Burning House” which sounded incredible. Hillary Scott had no trouble following Cam’s vocals. When they were finished Charles said they could do another song so they need Lady A’s hit “Need You Now” with some assistance from Cam. When they were finished with this song, they had to sing “Burning House” again because something went wrong with the shooting it the first time FOR THE SHOW! Everything being for this ABC show is really ruining the whole thing for everyone.
It was after 11:00 by this point and Jason Aldean was still to come. People were irritated it was so late, that they sang “Burning House” again. We noticed lots of people actually leaving.
Finally at 11:40, Thomas and Brett from the middle of the field introduced Jason. First song out of the box was “Tattoos on this Town”. Then he did his new single, written by Florida Georgia Line, “Lights Come On”. He did “Burn It Down”, “When She Says Baby”, “My Kinda Party” and “She’s Country”. His set was over about 12:15.
What a fantastic first day! Can’t wait to see what the next three hold!