With musicians performing before dozens, scores and thousands of country music fans, the 2007 CMA Music Festival officially arrived Thursday (June 7) with concerts on three stages in downtown Nashville. Officials of the Country Music Association had already announced that this year’s ticket sales were up 18 percent from last year, and it sure seemed that way when Terri Clark kicked off the day with a 10 a.m. performance on the Riverfront Park stage.
The line getting into Riverfront Park was still backed up for more than a block — with as many as 10 people standing side by side — by the time Clark hit the stage to open the festival with a new song, the title track from her upcoming album, In My Next Life. Once inside the gate, thousands found their way to the grassy banks of the Cumberland River to brave temperatures in the upper 80s for a chance to see Clark appear on the two-hour show that also featured Craig Morgan, John Anderson, Jamie O’Neal and newcomer Chris Young.
At the same time, about 100 people gathered farther up on Broadway to a smaller stage in front of the Sommet Center to see singer-songwriter Bobby Pinson provide a strong performance of his original songs. Pinson, who scored a major label hit in 2005 with “Don’t Ask Me How I Know,” recently released an album on an independent label and also co-wrote Sugarland’s hit, “Want To.”
By 11 a.m., other fans had moved to the Nashville Convention Center where Bucky Covington, Emerson Drive and Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson were among those signing autographs for anyone who was willing to stand in what were often lengthy lines. While the crowd was even smaller at the Acoustic Corner stage inside the Convention Center, the musicianship was undeniable when Cadillac Sky inaugurated the tiny stage for this year’s festival. An innovative bluegrass quintet, the Texas-based group recently released its debut album for Skaggs Family Records.
The biggest concerts of the festival take place at LP Field, the stadium of the Tennessee Titans. At least two major surprise guests are expected to appear at Thursday night’s show during a concert that already features some major star power — Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley, the Wreckers and Jason Michael Carroll.
All in all, the festival includes more than 100 hours of concerts. In addition to the shows at LP Field, Riverfront Park, Sommet Center and the Nashville Convention Center, free late night performances are taking place at the Hard Rock Cafe with the PovertyNeck Hillbillies (Thursday), Lantana (Friday) and Emerson Drive (Saturday). The festival closes Sunday at LP Field with an evening concert starring Brad Paisley, Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson, Rodney Atkins, Billy Currington, Miranda Lambert, Kellie Pickler and Taylor Swift.