CMA Fest 2017: Predators Pride Takes Over, Luke Bryan Gives Free Show & Other Day 4 Highlights

Luke Bryan performs during the opening of the TV broadcast of The 2017 Stanley Cup Final, Game 6 at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tenn.
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Luke Bryan performs during the opening of the TV broadcast of The 2017 Stanley Cup Final, Game 6 at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tenn. 

Despite the unfortunate Stanley Cup outcome for the Preds, the Nashville spirit was alive.

Country and hockey have gone hand in hand all week at this year’s CMA Fest, thanks to the Nashville Predators being in the Stanley Cup. But the last day of the fest (June 11) also marked game 6 of the cup -- a home game for the Preds -- and the spirit of Nashville was more alive than ever. Festivalgoers clad in blue and gold, performers starting “Go Preds!” chants, a free Luke Bryan concert on Broadway, game updates during the Nissan Stadium show... country and hockey were one.

Unfortunately after all of the excitement, Sunday ended in heartbreaking fashion: The Predators lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0, ending their Stanley Cup hopes. But despite the outcome, the entire day was filled with Preds pride, and even after the loss spirits were high thanks to the exciting finale of the CMA Music Festival that included Keith Urban, Little Big Town and Brad Paisley. Take a look at the day four action Billboard caught below.

10:02 a.m. CST Fans were up bright and early to catch an intimate set from Brett Young at the HGTV Lodge, and they were clearly there by no mistake — when Young was introducing his band members, he asked the crowd what his guitarist’s nickname was instead of saying it, to which they excitedly responded “Nugget!” without hesitation. “That’s the first time I’ve ever asked, that was hilarious,” Young laughed. “We seriously need a Nugget Instagram account.” The fandom was evident throughout Young’s set as well, as sing-alongs happened to every song he sang, especially his latest hit “In Case You Didn’t Know.” Young made sure to thank fans for their dedication multiple times, but ultimately bid them adieu with a little quip, "Stay out of trouble, but it's CMA Fest, so I know better."

10:49 a.m. "Is anyone sunburned yet? It's all worth it for country music, right?” RaeLynn asked her Riverfront Stage crowd. Sporting a sassy pair of blue-heeled Western boots, the 23-year-old put on an impressive vocal performance of songs from her country chart-topping album WildHorse, including her new single “Lonely Call” and hit “Love Triangle.” In light of the vulernability of the latter, she told fans, "Thank you for showing me it's okay to wear your heart on your sleeve as an artist."

11:15 a.m. "Preds gonna win tonight, praise God!” Trent Harmon said as he began his morning set at the Chevrolet Park stage. The American Idol singer had fans pumped with that comment, but also had them bopping when he sang his hit “There’s A Girl.” To close out his high-energy performance, Harmon played a song called “Her,” about which he claimed to have a sneaking suspicion it would be his next single. To help gauge fan response, he instructed the crowd, "If you like it, clap, and if you don't like it... clap even louder."

12:19 p.m. Despite being pretty fresh on the country scene, Jillian Jacqueline gathered a respectable crowd at the Gildan Broadway Stage outside of the Hard Rock Cafe. Her performance was worthy of a solid crowd, too, as she engaged with the crowd and sang her heart out on songs like hit “Reasons” and recent single “Hate Me” the way a main stage headliner would.

12:46 p.m. As Lauren Alaina belted her new single "Doin Fine" at the HGTV Lodge, a little girl in the front row sung along to every word — holding a plastic microphone, no less. She’s a four-year-old named Sylvia, Alaina announced to the crowd later, as she has attended several of the singer’s shows and even sang with her at the Grand Ole Opry once. After handing Sylvia the real mic for the first chorus of “Road Less Traveled,” Alaina brought her up on stage to dance and sing through the rest of the song, subsequently melting every heart in the room. While Alaina was clearly focused on her little fan, her guitarist Tico was all about the Preds spirit, sporting a tank top with players’ faces all over it.

1:16 p.m. Newcomer Michael Tyler delivered a set of songs from his debut album 317 which came out in March, telling those that may not have been so familiar with his music, "I really hope you guys dig this stuff.” Regardless of whether the crowd knew his music or not, Tyler was just excited to be a performer at the Fest instead of a fan. "I remember 5 or 6 years ago, walking alone trying to catch anyone I could,” he said, "so to be up here is a really cool feeling.” One song he played that everyone knew, though, was “Somewhere On a Beach,” a 2016 smash for Dierks Bentley that he co-wrote.

1:58 p.m. Dressed in almost-matching outfits of brightly colored shirts and denim bottoms, Maddie & Tae kept were as in harmony visually as they were vocally. Amidst playing their own songs, the duo paid tribute to another country pair that played an influential part in their careers, Brooks & Dunn, singing “Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You.” Telling the crowd that they are working on their second LP, Maddie & Tae played an upbeat new song titled “Welcome to the Club” that had fans swaying along.

2:19 p.m. Playing for a crowd of fans sitting in rocking chairs -- part of a Cracker Barrel-sponsored CMA Fest initiative Rock-a-Thon -- classic country group Shenandoah had the crowd out of their chairs as they closed their set with classics “I Wanna Be Loved Like That” and “Two Dozen Roses."

2:32 p.m. In his opening number “A Little Bit of You,” Chase Bryant slipped in a shout-out to his hometown hockey team: "I could use a little bit of the Nashville Predators bringing home the Stanley Cup!” Later in his set that included songs like “Wayfarer Weather” and “Take It On Back," he also gave a shout-out to the armed forces. "There's one reason were here today, and that's because of the men and women busting their asses overseas,” he declared. "Are you proud of those men and women? I know I'm proud to live in the United States!"

3:06 p.m. As up-and-coming Australian singer Morgan Evans took the Chevrolet Park stage, "Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi OI" chants began. "Every Australian in Nashville is here, it's amazing,” Evans said with a laugh. He played tunes that will be officially released in the United States at the end of next month, including a song called “Kiss Somebody” -- during which, he slipped in a snippet of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.” In Ed Sheeran fashion, Evans used a loop pedal for his performance, as he told those in attendance that he had to leave his band in Australia.


Thank you for the love CMAFest!!! Back at ya! Can't wait to get this music out to you all! #cmafest

A post shared by Morgan Evans (@morganevansmusic) on

4:13 p.m. Luke Combs started off his HGTV Lodge set with his next country radio single, "When It Rains It Pours,” off his brand new LP This One’s For You that just debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. He and his bandmates spent the performance bantering, especially when one of Combs’ guitarists suggested they sing the title track from his album. "Oh really that'd be awesome, that'd be intimate,” Combs said -- to which his guitarist replied, "I love when you tell me I'm intimate.” The lighthearted spirit they brought helped Combs’ dynamic voice really shine on tracks like ‘90s country ode “Honky Tonk Highway,” a cover of Brooks & Dunn's “Brand New Man” and, of course, the country airplay No. 1 “Hurricane.” "You changed my life and a lot of other people's with this song,” Combs thanked the crowd.

6:08 p.m. "Do we have any Nashville Predators fans out there?" Luke Bryan yelled from the rooftop of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in downtown Nashville, where he gave a free performance as a pump-up for the Preds game happening an hour later at Bridgestone Arena. Playing hits like “That’s My Kinda Night,” "Play It Again” and “Huntin’, Fishin’ And Lovin’ Every Day” in a five-song set, Bryan showed his Preds pride by sporting a “SMASH” hat and eventually sporting a personalized jersey, which he flashed to the packed Broadway down below as he started a “Let’s Go Preds!” chant. Also spotted in the crowd were Dierks Bentley and Vince Gill, who served as co-hosts for a pre-game show.

Broadway is rockin' right now thanks to @LukeBryanOnline and the @PredsNHL! #StanleyCup

— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) June 11, 2017

8:33 p.m. "We've been playing CMA Fest many years and we finally made it to the old Nissan Stadium,” T.J. Osborne of Brothers Osborne told the crowd. Although it was their first time in the coveted CMA Fest spot, the duo played the stage like stadium veterans, rocking out during their hits “Stay a Little Longer” and “It Ain’t My Fault” -- during which John Osborne absolutely shredded his guitar solo, raising his guitar above his head screaming “Yeah!” because he knew he crushed it.

9:10 p.m. As Kelsea Ballerini and Thomas Rhett got ready for one of their many emcee moments — the two are the hosts of the CMA Fest TV special that will be airing on ABC Aug. 16 — Ballerini’s “Yeah Boy” played, which of course prompted her to dance and sing along, even engaging the fans in front of her in a little sing-along.

9:24 p.m. Simply dressed in a plain green t-shirt, jeans and a ball cap, Darius Rucker delivered fun renditions of his singles “Alright,” ”Homegrown Honey” and current hit “If I Told You,” for which he brought out Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild. "How awesome is that?,” he said about the surprise. "I love Nashville, man." While he was clearly enjoying himself as he sang his hits, Rucker was looking forward to his post-performance plans. "Now I'm gonna sit back, get me a beer, and be a fan for the rest of the night."

10:12 p.m. Although they didn’t say much during their performance, the four Little Big Town members didn’t have to say anything to have fans completely enthralled in their performance of hits like “Day Drinking,” “Pontoon," “Better Man” and “Girl Crush." Perhaps the most excited response came to “Boondocks,” which the group’s Jimi Westbrook recognized could be because of the southern location: "Some of y'all know about the Boondocks!”

10:41 p.m. After the Predators game ended in sad fashion, Keith Urban served as Mr. Silver Lining for those who may have been feeling a little depressed over the outcome. "We fought the good fight,” he said. "Go Preds — I feel incredibly proud of the Predators. To make it this far is amazing, and I couldn't be prouder to live in the home of the Preds.” Even if fans were sad, Urban’s electric performance clearly lifted their spirits, as he acknowledged, “You guys are in good form tonight!” Urban brought the energy up even more by jumping in the crowd for his set-closing rocker “Wasted Time."

11:28 p.m. With the Preds losing and the night coming to an end, Brad Paisley knew he had a lot riding on his CMA Fest-closing performance — but with a hit-filled set and some serious guitar solos, he clearly wasn’t phased. Amidst popular tracks like “Water,” “River Bank” and “Last Time For Everything,” Paisley also included brief covers of The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” and Prince’s “Purple Rain,” which had the crowd on their feet and singing along. After going into the center of the crowd for “Old Alabama” and his latest hit “Today,” he closed with “Mud on the Tires.” But fans weren’t ready to go home, chanting “one more song!” until Paisley came back out. "We weren't planning on one more but let's do it,” Paisley said, before singing “Alcohol” to officially bring the night (and the fest) to a rousing end.