CMT’s experiment in mounting a fan-voted country music video awards show turned into a resounding pep rally for the music. The CMT Flameworthy Video Music Awards, held at Nashville’s Gaylord Entertainment Center Wednesday (June 12), also managed to transform part of downtown Nashville into an exuberant, hours-long block party for country fans, and it proved to be a fitting way to kick off Fan Fair.
In the arena, the show itself was truly a lovefest and pep rally for fans and artists and their music, absent much of the award show twaddle that had marred this show’s predecessor, the variously-named Music City News/TNN/Country Weekly Awards show. Ear-splitting cheers and standing ovations filled the evening as the fans got more than two hours-worth of many of their favorite artists. A decibel count would probably reveal Kenny Chesney to be the absolute crowd favorite, as judged by the noise level. It was very much an evening devoted to the fans. And they cheered themselves frequently, as most winners took pains to thank “you, the fans.”
There was a lot of fan-artist interchange, with autographs being signed in the building. Artists onstage shook hands with fans in the two “mosh pits” at stage left and right, full of radio station contest winners from around the country. Kathy Najimy turned out to be a mostly funny host, one who was very simpatico with a country fan audience. And even my least favorite comedian in the world — Carrot Top — actually did a very funny bit about rednecks.
The fans heard the live music performances they had come for, from Chesney’s “Young” to Toby Keith ’s “boot in the ass” song to Earl Scruggs ’ “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” to a surprise version of “Tush,” when ZZ Top made an unannounced appearance with Brooks & Dunn . The show ended in a spirited audience singalong with Travis Tritt on his “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive,” as fans waved glowsticks in the air.
Fans started gathering long before the show’s 8 p.m. (CDT) start, jamming Fifth Avenue outside and hoping for a glimpse of the stars as they arrived on the red carpet. Meanwhile, many other fans spent the evening watching proceedings on MWL’s outdoor stage just outside the building’s front doors. Gary Allan and Rascal Flatts serenaded them, drawing more fans from the many honky-tonks on adjacent lower Broadway. Many fans who weren’t attending the show lingered outside throughout the evening, getting their fill of country music.
The crowd inside was a riotous display of Fan Far fashion. A sea of cowboy hats and baseball caps. A cleavage parade. Off-the-shoulder peasant blouses. Off-the-hips, low-cut shorts. Sequins and spangles. Several Hank Williams Jr. look-alikes. One very convincing Johnny PayCheck look-alike. Many Dixie Chicks wannabes. A Tim and Faith couple. Plaid Bermuda shorts. Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirts. Every kind of camera under the sun. And most people smiling broadly throughout the evening. It was, very obviously, their night.