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The Best Moments of the 2016 ACM Awards

Dolly Parton and Katy Perry Academy of Country Music Awards 2016
Kevin Winter/ACM2016/Getty Images for dcp

Dolly Parton and Katy Perry perform onstage during the 51st Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 3, 2016 in Las Vegas.

Now in their 51st year, the ACM Awards are an indelible part of country’s establishment -- but that doesn’t mean honorees and guests aren’t also having a good old-fashioned party. "As an Englishman and an actor I feel like a guest here," said Tom Hiddleston, who plays Hank Williams in new biopic I Saw The Light, "but I have to say, you guys sure know how to have a good time." 

The fun began with Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, and Blake Shelton’s onstage antics and lasted all the way through Chris Stapleton’s (the night’s unchallenged victor) duet alongside his wife Morgane. Read on for some of the evening’s highlights and top performances.

2016 Academy of Country Music Awards Photos: Red Carpet & More!

Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley Ham It Up

The good friends showed off their banter during a sweet opening monologue whose punchline was an extended riff on Nashvillians taking credit for the runaway success of songwriter Chris Stapleton -- Jason Aldean chimed in from the crowd to mention his work with Stapleton, then in turn Thomas Rhett, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, and Carrie Underwood (who brought a bejeweled, faux-vintage Chris Stapleton shirt that she alleged she’d had since...before he was even born) all added in how they too had contributed to Stapleton’s rise. Together, some of country's biggest names came together with a little self-deprecating humor to get the show started on just the right note. 

Von Miller Goes Country

Von Miller knew what the audience was wondering -- why was the Super Bowl MVP attending the ACM Awards? -- so he preemptively answered their questions with his brief moment onstage. “I’m here because I’m a Texan, I love country music, and my Super Bowl ring is the flashiest bling in Vegas,” he said -- the ring, though, might have had some competition from Von’s hoe-down-ready Western-style suit, which featured skulls, roses, and (of course) cowboy boots.

Eric Church Had A “Record Year” For Bowie, Lemmy & More

The longtime country outsider paid tribute legends outside of the genre who recently passed away with a performance of his catalog-quoting single “Record Year.” Mid-song, Church passed the rhetorical mic to an on-stage turntablist, who spun classics from David Bowie, Scott Weiland’s Stone Temple Pilots, Lemmy’s Motorhead, and Glenn Frey’s Eagles for a moving cross-genre memorial.

Chris Stapleton Wins Big

“I can’t believe Garth Brooks just gave me an award,” said Stapleton after receiving the second of what would, by the end of the night, be five ACM awards (including new male vocalist of the year and male vocalist of the year). The sweep is just another feather in the cowboy hat for the singer/songwriter, whose solo debut Traveller came after many, many hits written for country’s biggest stars.

Little Big Town Take On The Big Easy

“Thank you Chris Stapleton for not being a group!” the band said jokingly after they took home the prize for vocal group of the year. For the performance itself, though, LBT was all business, bringing New Orleans flair with Trombone Shorty (accompanied by a full brass band) joining the group for a roadhouse-ready performance of their single “Stay All Night.” Even the fashion got funky: Kimberly Schlapman sported a hot pink, fringe-laden dress while Karen Fairchild wowed with star-spangled bell bottoms. 

Carrie Underwood Gets In The Groove on “Church Bells”

During her performance of heartfelt new single “Church Bells,” Underwood, clad in an silvery armor-esque dress, snatched the mallets from two onstage drummers for a brief drum solo -- a fittingly empowering act for the anti-domestic violence anthem.

Miranda Lambert, Billy Gibbons and Keith Urban Go Bottoms Up With “Tush” 

With a tambourine in hand, Miranda Lambert helmed a too-brief supergroup with Keith Urban and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons to absolutely destroy the group’s rip-roaring Southern rock classic “Tush.” “I’m really excited for women in country music,” Lambert said following her win for female vocalist of the year -- after her roadhouse-ready performance, the audience likely was as well.

Katy Perry & Dolly Parton Kick It Old School

“My personal hero and a powerful woman,” was how Katy Perry introduced Dolly Parton, who, wearing a sequined coat of many colors joined the pop star for a medley of some of her most enduring hits, including “Jolene” and “9 To 5.” 

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