CMA Music Festival Amps Up the Energy in Nashville

No Shortage of Star Power as Fans Get a Break With Cooler Weather

Artists and fans have already crowded into downtown Nashville for the 2012 CMA Music Festival . All that’s missing is the relentless heat — often pushing the 100-degree mark — that longtime attendees have come to expect and endure each year.

The music at Riverfront Park launched Thursday morning (June 7) with Montgomery Gentry, but there’s plenty of live music to be heard at several stages and other venues before the festival closes Sunday night at LP Field.

And everything’s cool — in more ways than one. With the thermometer hitting the high 70s on Thursday, the National Weather Service is forecasting a high of only 90 throughout the weekend. And that makes things better for everybody.

Glen Campbell served as grand marshal for the festival’s kick-off parade Wednesday in Nashville. The day was highlighted by the CMT Music Awards , one of several ancillary events coinciding with the festival. Numerous artists are also hosting fan club parties this week.

While the smaller stages at the festival are offering a diverse array of entertainment, the main focus is on the daytime concert series at Riverfront Park and the evening shows at LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans.

Free and open to the public, the Riverfront Park offering ranges from veterans (Mel Tillis, the Oak Ridge Boys, Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers) to established hitmakers (Tracy Lawrence, Jo Dee Messina, Lonestar, Neal McCoy, Craig Morgan, Phil Vassar, Darryl Worley to newer acts (Lee Brice, Laura Bell Bundy, Edens Edge, Brett Eldredge, Colt Ford, Gloriana, Casey James, Jana Kramer, Lonestar, Love and Theft, Dustin Lynch, Kip Moore, David Nail, Jerrod Niemann, the Randy Rogers Band, Thomas Rhett, Sunny Sweeney, the Farm, Josh Thompson and James Wesley.)

The nightly concerts at LP Field are ticketed events featuring some of the biggest names in country music. The series begins Thursday with Glen Campbell, Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, the Zac Brown Band and Brad Paisley. Friday’s lineup includes Ronnie Milsap, Brantley Gilbert, Jake Owen, The Band Perry, Blake Shelton and Carrie Underwood. The music continues Saturday with Kenny Rogers (who will perform earlier in the day at the Bonnaroo festival in Manchester, Tenn.), Hunter Hayes, Little Big Town, Eric Church, Luke Bryan and Faith Hill. The festival closes Sunday with the final songs being sung by the Mavericks, Scotty McCreery, Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, Alan Jackson and Martina McBride.

In addition to the autograph signings at the Nashville Convention Center, two other noteworthy events are scheduled.

The annual City of Hope Celebrity Softball Challenge is set for Saturday at 9 a.m. at Greer Stadium, home of the Nashville Sounds baseball team. Scheduled to participate are American Idol’s Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, Brantley Gilbert, Vince Gill, Carrie Underwood and many others.

Also on Saturday, the sixth annual CMA Music Festival Fan Social Presented by CMT will feature acoustic performances by Kix Brooks, Casey James, Aaron Lewis, Love and Theft and Sunny Sweeney. Doors open at 2 p.m. for the free event taking place at an as-yet-undisclosed location. Fans can follow CMT, CMA and Fan Social artists for clues to the hidden location. Find out more about how to attend the Fan Social.

Calvin Gilbert has served as’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.