Cam’s Shout-Out to Fireball
The curly-haired singer shared a funny story about her track “Fireball Whiskey,” which entailed emailing email@example.com upon writing the song to see if they’d be interested in using it. She did get a response, but not what she expected: “Ms. Cam, your song promotes irresponsible drinking." So before starting the song, she reminded everyone to drink responsibly, but declared the song “the unofficial Fireball Whiskey anthem.”
Tegan Marie’s Star Potential
Though Tegan Marie is only 14 and doesn’t have many songs to her name just yet, she treated her Hard Rock Stage set as if she had been doing this for years. With covers like The Band Perry’s “Done” and Bruno Mars “24k Magic” along with her own songs, Tegan Marie showed she has the talent and the energy to make it big -- even before 11 a.m.
Kip Moore Goes Off The Cuff"
“You guys might think you're gonna hear the songs you hear on the radio but that's not the case right now,” Kip Moore told the crowd before a six-song acoustic show at HGTV Lodge. Joking that he was "going off the cuff" to test if he had a real fan base in the intimate room, Moore played deep cuts from Slowheart (“Fast Women,” “I’ve Been Around,” “The Bull”) and Wild Ones (“That Was Us”) in a set list-free set. He didn’t totally disregard his singles, either, playing “Beer Money” and “More Girls Like You” as well, making the show a neat experience for “real” Moore fans and the ones who love their radio hits.
Russell Dickerson’s Adrenaline-Inducing Set
Even despite the “hotter than Hades” temperature (as Russell Dickerson called it), the “Yours” singer was jumping and booty-shaking his way around the stage during his entire set. His energy fueled the crowd’s, especially when he sang “MGNO” and went into the audience for a snippet of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” “Got my cardio in for the day,” he joked.
Cale Dodds’ Rebellious Move
At the end of his set during “People Watching,” Cale Dodds grabbed the “Do Not Climb” sign on stage and completely broke that rule by jumping on top of a giant Chevrolet logo in the middle of the Chevy Breakout Stage Crowd, leaving it there for fans to actually obey.
Jon Langston’s Impact on a Father and His Daughter
During Langston’s 25-minute set, a dad and his daughter adorably sang every word to every song together. And when the dad put his girl on his shoulders for “Forever Girl,” Langston took notice, pointing them out and waving.
Eric Paslay’s Awesome Covers
Though he has plenty of songs he has penned for other artists, Paslay stuck to some classics for a streak of covers toward the end of his set. Starting with The Outfield’s “Your Love,” Paslay then geniusly mashed up Eli Young Band’s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly.”
Chris Lane’s Salute to the ‘90s
After asking if fans want to throw it back, Chris Lane took a second for an outfit change only to come back sporting an awesomely vintage Western shirt and Garth Brooks-esque black hat. “Welcome back to the 1990s!” he declared before singing a medley of “Should've Been a Cowboy,” “Watermelon Crawl,” “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” “Chattahoochee,” “Dust on the Bottle,” “Check Yes or No,” “Sold” and “Friends in Low Places,” which was (hilariously) capped off by “All I Do is Win” that had the crowd really fired up.
Hunter Hayes’ Heartfelt Memories
Hunter Hayes made his return to the Riverfront Stage for the first time in five years, recalling the first time he played that stage -- a monumental career moment for him. “That show felt like a defining moment because I felt like they welcomed me into the family,” he said, referring to the country genre. “I'm honored to be part of your family.”
Gavin DeGraw’s Hit-Packed Set
While he’s known as a buddy of Brett Young’s in the country community, Gavin DeGraw’s appearance at the Riverfront Stage reminded fans that he has tons of hits of his own. Singing tracks like “Chariot” and “Not Over You,” DeGraw had the crowd singing along to every song – especially his One Tree Hill classic “I Don’t Wanna Be.”
Love & Theft’s New Single
More than two years since their previous single, Love & Theft declared that they have a new one finally on the way in three weeks. After performing the fresh track (titled “You Didn’t Want Me”), the duo teased that there’s more where it comes from: “We’ve got a big summer ahead of us."
Granger Smith’s Revved-Up Entrance
Granger Smith has declared he’s a country boy in song several times, so what better way for someone like him to make his way to the stage than on a four-wheeler? He apparently thought the same thing, riding an ATV (in a YeeYee shirt, of course) before jumping on stage to sing his fitting track “Merica.”
Brett Young’s Flawless Vocals
One year after getting the opportunity to perform his hit “In Case You Didn’t Know” as a special guest at Nissan Stadium last year, Young got his own slot for this year’s CMA Fest -- and he’s clearly been working on perfecting his voice for the big-time performance. Young’s standout moment came during his latest hit “Mercy,” about which he joked, “I hate saying this, but truth is, I love how sad this makes people.”
Luke Combs’ Shout-Out to Brooks & Dunn
Another killer vocal performance came from Luke Combs, who amped up the crowd with his three No. 1 Country Airplay hits (“Hurricane,” “When It Rains It Pours” and “One Number Away”). But perhaps the best moment was his ode to old school country, his twangy song “Honky Tonk Highway.” “I’m not Brooks & Dunn, but I love Brooks & Dunn ... This is the best '90s country song I could write,” he said of the song, which he mixed with the B&D hit “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.”
Blake Shelton Calling BS
As Blake Shelton began singing his newer hit “I’ll Name the Dogs,” his audio wasn’t working properly on one side of the stadium. He quickly realized the issue and stopped, declaring “I'll be damned if I come out to CMA Fest with the sound off!” with a smile which elicited rowdy cheers from the crowd. After going backstage to start over, he riled up the fans once more by saying, “That's bullshit!”
Old Dominion’s Full-Circle Moment
Like Brett Young, Old Dominion had a chance to perform at the stadium show last year, but only for a quick medley. So when they had their chance to fill one of the night’s final slots, they took full advantage and delivered a roaring set of their biggest songs. Seemingly the coolest moment for them was when the crowd of 60,000 sang “No Such Thing as a Broken Heart” back to them -- proof that they deserve to be Nissan Stadium performers.
Carrie Underwood’s "Mom Joke"
Unsurprisingly, Carrie Underwood’s performance was flawless, as she delivered mind-blowing renditions of hits like “Church Bells,” “Last Name” and “Blown Away,” as well as her dynamic current hit “Cry Pretty.” But her onstage banter was as enjoyable as her voice, especially before “Dirty Laundry.” “We might need to change the words to sweaty laundry,” she said. “I know I do… mom joke.”