Five tips for CMA Fest goers

-Logo-Badge-4CSo, after a brief hiatus, time to recover from the full-on CMAFest, I’m hopefully back on track and will pick-up the pace with postings. starting with some, hopefully, useful tips for those already planning a trip next year.

As first timers at the festival we did find it a bit overwhelming. We had expected it to be a crazy four days, but that doesn’t even begin to describe the actual experience.

Temperatures in the high 90s impacted on our day-to-day activity. We figured that the idea of staying out all day and then heading to the stadium for the evening concerts probably wasn’t going to work. So we paced ourselves a bit more.

imageSo here are a few tips for anyone heading to Nashville next year.

  1. Arrive in town a few days early. Nashville isn’t a big city, but it’s worth getting a feel for the place, pick out the bars you like (there’s plenty to choose from).
  2. Book a hotel within walking distance of the centre. The day time action takes over the Broadway, city centre area and we found that being able to walk back to our hotel, we stayed at the Indigo, in late afternoon to freshen up before heading out in the evening was a great bonus.
  3. Make time for the other attractions, the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman, Country Music Hall of Fame.
  4. Plan the acts you want to see around town on the various stages in advance, rather than making it up on the hoof.
  5. The indoor Fan Fare X is well worth a look.

The heat is on!

Boy CMAFest is hot! And I don’t just mean the weather, though it is well into the 90s in Nashville.

last night the first of four evening concerts At the Nissan stadium, home of Tennessee Titans football team, was opened by country music veterans the Charlie Daniels Band. Kelsea Ballerini rocked a multi-coloured jump suit and the crowd, Dierks Bentley Got Drnk on a Plane and Simewhere on a Beach. He also introduced his new “friend” Elle King, who joined him on Different for Girls.

In fact surprise appearance was the order of the night. Charlie Daniels brought Randy Travis on stage. His appearance drew warm applause though Travis is still clearly a shadow of his former self.

Lady Antebellum made an unscheduled appearance with pop songstress Cam. They initially did two songs, there then seemed some confusion as the fans waited for headliner Jason Aldean, Lady A and Cam repeated the first song.

A bit late Aldean hit the stage and   delivered his usual barnstorming rock performance.

it may just have been the time, it was after 11.30pm when Aldean started but it was notable that the crowd thinned out. A couple of rows around us on the floor of the venue were virtually empty.

So do some people buy tickets to just see favoured acts and either spend the time when other acts are on stage in the bars or simply head home once there faces have been on stage?

Having come from the UK and waited a year for this we plan to get value for money and see everyone who hits the stage.




Things actually are what they used to be

I recently commented on a post on a Facebook group for country music fans from someone saying “country music isn’t what it used to be.”

so it was good to see how this genre has changed and adapted over the decades when we visited the country music museum and hall of fame in Nashville.

From its roots in people playing basic instruments, sometimes home made, through the influence of cowboy tunes, Western swing and the impact of mass media. Through its history country has regularly found a new voice without losing sight of the debt it owes to previous generations.

And last night at the Grand Ole Oprey we saw a live example of how acts from other genres work with country acts when Little Big Town introduced Pharrell Williams as there surprise guest. Williams joined LBT to perform their new single, which he has co-written. You can view the action here.

I know we are just two days in to the trip but the visit to the GOO is a highlight. For a country fan in the UK the GOO is one of those legendary venues and it didn’t disappoint.

Larger than I thought, the concert is a radio broadcast, so it keeps moving along, with acts performing four songs each, interspersed with promos read out by the on stage announcer.

The line we saw included Darius Rucker, LBT and Miranda Lambert.

A great night out and a great experience.

Nashville – day one

In LA everyone is an actor, a writer, a producer, a director (or at least a would-be one) while they wait tables or serve beers. In Nashville it appears everyone is a singer and/or songwriter. The difference here is that these folk are actually out-and-about playing bars and other venues as well as working a “normal job”

The lady who sold my wife dome boots was busking with her husband, who worked in the same shop.

Meanwhile performers who are at the start of the greasy poll to fame kicked off the CMAFest on their international stage.

Among the acts were Frankie Davies and the Pauper Kings from the UK, both of whom played great sets, both of whom are recording new albums in Nashville.

The line-up of acts was drawn from rising country stars from Canada, New Zealand and Australia. It’s a great idea and by doing it on the Monday it doesn’t clash with other CMA events.

The stage was set up in the car park area of the Hard Rock Cafe and it attracted a decent crowd.

Well worth checking out the performers and looking out for there recordings.

Off to Nashville, as Nashville comes over here

After a year of waiting we are off to Nashville this weekend, so we have time to ‘warm-up’ ahead of the CMAFest 2016. But just as we are digging out the passports Nashville announces that it’s coming over here in August.

On Saturday August 13 and Sunday 14 Canary Wharf is hosting an outdoors country concert, at Canada Sq Park.

The line up includes Ty Herndon, Logan Brill and American Young from the USA and Hannah Rose Platt, William The Conqueror and Pauper Kings, who are playing CMAFest.

The event is co-produced by Canary Wharf Arts +and Events, Peter Conway Management, and Nashville-based agency The AristoMedia Group. Baylen Leonard, BBC Radio 2 Country DJ, is the artistic program consultant.

The full line up will be confirmed over the next few weeks. To keep up to date you can follow the Twitter feed @yourcanarywharf

One year ago today….

A note came up on Facebook today reminding me that it was one year ago today when we purchased out tickets for CMA Fest 2016. And now it’s nearly here. Just 10 days to go to the start of the festival action on the main stage.

Of course there’s action before than. On the Monday CMA World Global gives the Festival a truly international feel, with acts from around the world playing. -Logo-Badge-4C

To help fans plan how they will navigate the whole event, with all the acts and stages CMA created an app which is really well designed. They have avoided overloading it with to much material and stuck to the info fans really want. This include a ‘my schedule’ which helps you pick out the acts you want to see, what time they are appearing and which stage they are on.

So who is on my list? Well, we will in the stadium for the ‘main event’ but alongside of that I have Jersey songstress Frankie Davies pencilled in for Monday evening; Jake Owen starts our four day festival viewing at 10am (I don’t think I’ve ever been to a concert at 10am!) at the Chevrolet Riverfront stage. I’ve also got Kristian Bush, Maddie & Tae and Margo Price on the schedule.

Any suggestions of other acts who are ‘must sees’ gratefully received.


Young set to kick-off CMA Festival

Another announcement about CMA Fest as the event gets closer with the announcement that Chris Young will kick-off this year’s festival at the event’s official opening ceremony at Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater on June 8 at 11am.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry will also be taking part in the open event, alongside the Fisk Jubilee Singers and students from local schools,Young, who is also a member of the CMA Board of Directors said: “As a Middle Tennessee native and someone who grew up going to Fan Fair, it’s pretty cool to get to kick off CMA Music Festival and shine a spotlight on the CMA Foundation and the music education students the festival benefits.”

The opening ceremonies are free and open to the public. The stage is located at the foot of Korean Veterans Boulevard and First Avenue (south of Riverfront Park), and gates will open at 10AM for the event.

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Axe falls on Nashville

American TV networks can be brutal. Programmes which seem to be popular or growing in popularity suddenly disappear, sometimes in mid-season. Now the same fate has befallen Nashville, the country music TV drama.

Nashville is about to be switched off
Nashville is about to be switched off

The programme was well received in the US when it first aired and I think one of it’s great strengths was that the cast included real musicians and the songs where written by real songwriters. The fact that T Bone Burnett, artist, songwriter, producer, oversaw the music in the first series set the tone (though he later left the show).

The programme resulted in a number of albums and it has to be said that these would stand on their own quality, and not just because they came out of a hit TV programme.

So why has the programme been axed?

Produced in the US by ABC in the UK it aired on More4. The debut episode attracted around 0.8m, by the season end this had dropped to about 0.6m and the second series opener attracted 0.5m. So not a huge ratings winner when compared to dramas on the mainstream channels this is quite low, but for a channel like More4 it was a decent performance. The show had also suffered a slide in viewing figures in the US, particularly among the key 18-49 demographic; this is the audience which networks believe they need to attract to win the big advertisers.

I think Nashville has been the best programme based on the music industry, certainly better than Vinyl, though there hasn’t been that much competition.

So the guitars are being packed away and the amps switched off for the last time, just as some of the cast are set to tour the UK. I suspect the main spin off from this show may be a genuine music career for some of the performers.

CMA Fest – the countdown begins

So the starting point for this blog was our trip to Nashville for CMA Fest and we are now just 36 days to the first act hitting the stage. That act will be Jake Owen on Thursday, June 9 on the River Front stage at 10am! Yes, 10am. Now that sounds like an early start for fans, but boy, it sounds a really early start for the performers. But that really sets the tone for the whole event. There are four stages which are back-to-back with acts and the challenge looks like trying to get to see all of the acts you want to catch. Even on the first day we’ve got Kristian Bush overlapping by five minutes with Maddie and Tae on different stages (First world problems, I know!) I’ve been a big fan of Kristian since I saw him at the first C2C festival in London. A great song writer and performer.

I guess more seasoned CMA Fest goers will have their game plan sorted but we are need to do our research, how far apart are the stages and can we dash between them?



So why country music UK?

Love country music
Love country music

Well, I’m in the UK and this is going to be about country music!

The main prompt however is that in June I’m off to Nashville for CMA Fest. In the meantime I thought I would blog about all things country, or at least all things country that I’m interested in, sound interesting, or simply come my way.

So do why do a qualify as someone who can write about country music? Well, I didn’t know you had to have a qualification. But as you’ve asked, the very first, yes, very first concert I ever saw was Johnny Cash and that was in the early 1970s in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, hardly a hot-bed of country music.

Since then the popularity of country music in the UK has waxed and waned. I have to admit the Dolly Parton, line dancing, pretending you live next door to the Dukes of Hazard when in fact you live in Dagenham (or anywhere else beginning with D) has never been my flavour of country. But there has always been great singer songwriters and great performers (of which more later)

More recently country has developed a whole new generation of acts (of which more later). Plus, things like C2C, Maverick magazine, and Internet radio enabling stations such as Chris Country to take to the air, are all giving country music in the UK a big push.

So this may be nothing more than a vanity project or it may turn out to be deeply insightful, either way welcome to the page and if you have thoughts on country music or particularly good acts you want to share let me know.

So here we go. Country Music UK