Being directed again to the raised stage in center field, we were serenaded by a teenager who was also introduced to many of us as a runner-up in American Idol – Lauren Alaina. Just a teenager, at seventeen she already has a well-known song riding the radio waves, “Georgia Peaches.” I am continually amazed at the amount of talent that comes from the state of Georgia – Zac Brown, Ray Charles, Billy Currington, Amy Grant, Alan Jackson, Gladys Night, Otis Redding, Travis Tritt, Trisha Yearwood, and the list goes on. Wearing a black sequined top, young Lauren dazzled the crowd in a short, but sweet set.
And, for the grand finale on this first night of the CMA Fest – – – BRAD PAISLEY – – – the cherry on top of a great night!! And yep, was he impressive! Not only does this guy have the gift of great vocals, he can shred a guitar like the best of ‘em! I love what he said tonight about country music: “It’s real music for real people. It has the ability to make you forget what you want to forget!” Whereas, I may agree with the ‘real’ part, I don’t believe it makes you forget anything. The thing that I have found about country music is that the lyrics are so tender, and the songs so heartfelt, that it can make you REMEMBER what you want to forget!! I know that if I’m in any sort of downer, I can not listen to country, unless I want to fall apart and sink to a new low. It’s just that emotional…but, I still love it!
I don’t know many of Brad’s songs, but it didn’t matter – he is an entertainer, a talented musician who put on a rockin’ good show! He is someone I will see again, if not for his collection of cool looking guitars (paint splattered, silver glittered paisley, etc,) but for his likeability factor. With a black shirt and a white cowboy hat, he was in tune with his audience – even autographing a fan’s guitar – and coming out into the crowd to play amongst them. He brought us songs like “Camouflage,” “American Saturday Night,” and “Mud on the Tires” before he surprised a happy audience with his guest musical mentor, Hank Williams, Jr., to join him in singing “I’m Gonna Get Drunk and Play Hank Williams!” Needless to say, the crowd went crazy!
Later that week, Brad was surprised with the CMA International Artist Achievement Award, which is given to an artist who is an outstanding ambassador for Country Music. Brad is an ‘American based artist who contributes to the awareness and development of Country Music outside the United States.’ Way to go, Brad…and thanks for a rippin’ ending to a memorable night!
Tomorrow night, June 8th, will be filled with more terrific music by Ronnie Milsap, The Band Perry, Brantley Gilbert, Jake Owen, Blake Shelton, and Carrie Underwood!! As much as I know it’s going to be another awesome night, I can’t imagine anything topping tonight. But, I’m ready for the adventure!!
There was a secondary, much smaller, elevated ‘stage’ out in the middle of the stadium, which I was wondering about. Only when Kellie Pickler came on and sang from it did I realize it was actually a stage, and not just some lighting/sound/technical platform. Acutally, it was probably both, but who cares? Kellie became known on ‘American Idol’ back in 2006, came in sixth place and has now successfully spun herself into fame. She did a short acoustic set, consisting of only three songs (none of which were familiar to me) but she was very good. She seems to have that entertainer quality and a strong desire for success, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of her.
And then came Jason!! Having friends from Georgia (this man’s home state) who are big fans, I was looking very forward to seeing Jason Aldean in concert. I had heard a lot about him since he seems to be on top of the country music world right now. I had begun listening to him a bit, and now was ready to see him in action. And, action it was! He exploded onto the stage with sheer force, and kept it going for his full 40 minute set. (Yes, this festival gives you a sampling of each artist at their best. They have 40 minutes to come out and prove themselves to their audience.) Jason rocked the house with power, and had the crowd around us (who were obviously BIG Jason fans!) singing every word to every one of his songs. I was very impressed, thinking I must have been sitting in the Georgia section of the stadium. Songs he sang that I recognized from the radio, were “Hicktown,” “Fly Over States,” and “She’s Country,” and he informed the crowd that he was about to release a new album. He was also very grateful to his fans (note: anyone who knows his story, knows that he was one gig from giving up his musical career before he was discovered.) He put on a terrific show, and this won’t be the last we hear of Jason Aldean, I can guarantee it!!
When it was time for the next act, Lady Antebellum, the crowd was buzzing. Jason left us energized, and Lady A turned the meter down by entering slowly, then building the momentum. First on the stage, strolled Hillary Scott singing “Need You Now,” the band’s huge hit. She was soon joined by Charles Kelley, who walked on stage from the opposite side, joining her in song. The third member, guitarist Dave Haywood came in somewhere, but I only noticed him after the other two, when the song really got going. Not being a big Lady A fan, I didn’t really recognize much of their music, but my partner-in-crime knew them all. They were very good and entertaining, but I don’t necessarily need to see them again.
The next artist on the bill was someone I was curious about, but not sitting on the edge of my seat to see. However, after his performance, he skyrocketed to the top of my country music list! Why? For three reasons: 1) He has a fiddler who showed his stuff by playing Charlie Daniels infamous “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and who I will never forget seeing perform this song back at SF’s Winterland in the 1970s; 2) He made a tribute to our military, and asked those that were in the audience to stand up so we could honor them. We also remembered those who had made the ultimate sacrifice, and looked up to the heavens with thanks; 3) He sang “America the Beautiful,” then ended with his big hit, “Chicken Fried.” (See him singing it at this year’s Jazz Fest: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKvb6mVuwIw) His performance was unique to me because of his Southern, and American pride. If you listen to the words to “Chicken Fried” you will hear, and feel, the love he has for his home, his woman, his family, his country, his God, and of course, music, fried chicken and beer! But, the most heartfelt to me was to hear these words, knowing they were written by a young man who is not afraid to give the world a glimpse of what’s inside his heart:
“I thank God for my life
And for the stars and stripes
May freedom forever fly
Let it ring…
Salute the ones who died
The ones that give their lives
So we don’t have to sacrifice
All the things we love.”
The audience was on fire for this band and personally, I was sorry to see them go. I wanted an encore, but this apparently isn’t the place for that. I came away from this experience knowing that I will definitely see these guys again!!
Yeehaw…here we go, off to the first night of the CMA Festival! Following the style of the scene, we decked out in skirts and cowgirl boots, parked as close as we could, then hoofed it over the Korean War Veterans Memorial (Pedestrian) Bridge (http://www.flickr.com/photos/matt-bna/2806976802/) with hundreds of other concert goers. LP Field (Home of the Tennessee Titans) here we come!
The show started off on a great note with classic country crooner, Glen Campbell! He looked and sounded good, though I was a little worried for him being able to put on a good show in his altered mental state. And, he got off to a shaky start, seeming
confused and angry (with his guitar) at first. But, soon he fell into a comfortable mode. Sure, he forgot a few lines (when he walked too far away from his prompter,) and he thought every song was his last, but once cued, he continued into the next song with a smile. A few times, a band member had to lead him back to his mic and let him know he had another song to play. He would strap his guitar back on and say with a chuckle, “Oh….I guess I’m doing another song. I thought I was done!” After that, the band wasted no time going right into the next song, which cued Glen immediately and he was right there along with them, not missing a beat. He played well, sang well, and didn’t disappoint. He played many of his hits, including ‘Galveston,’ ‘Gentle on My Mind,’ ‘Witcita Lineman,’ and ‘Rhinestone Cowboy,’ where he got a very long standing ovation. I was so happy to have had this opportunity to see Glen perform, as this is his “Goodbye Tour,” thanks to Alzheimer’s. It saddens me that the stars that I grew up listening to, watching on TV, etc, are aging, becoming ill, and leaving this world. Having known of them in their prime, it’s tough to see nature take it’s course and slow them down, weaken them, and then take them from us. So, seeing Glen smile his way through his show, deliver his beloved familiar tunes, and get cheers and praise from so many fans, was very moving and heartwarming! Thank you, Glen for all you brought to the world of music! You are loved!!
Next up was Miranda Lambert, 2012’s ACM’s ‘Female Vocalist of the Year,’ whose songs “Baggage Claim” and “Over You” have stood out amongst the rest on my radio lately. And now that I have seen her perform, she stands out as someone I will definitely see again! First off, she stormed the stage with sassy confidence in a black bustier, black skirt and very cool taupe colored fringed cowgirl boots! With her pink guitar and long blonde hair, she was stunning, singing into her pink microphone! And, she was on fire, starting her show with her hit “Baggage Claim,” then moving into “Fastest Girl in Town.” I was intrigued not only by her performance, but also the fact that she has one of those classic country girl voices, naturally high and sweet, like Dolly Parton and Wanda Jackson. But, she’s an anomaly – cute, sugar sweet vocals, very feminine, yet tough, self-assured, and independent,
commanding the stage with authority. She slowed things down with her touching ballad, “Over You, ” which brought some obvious emotional pain to her, having been written by her and husband, Blake Shelton in memory of his deceased brother. It was a touching performance, causing her to choke up a little. But then, she was back with an attitude when she introduced her new tough chick, honky-tonk girl band, the Pistol Annies, who came out and joined her for a few of their songs, “Hell on Heels” and “Takin’ Pills.” All in all, Miranda ‘brang it!’ She delivered a raunchy set with a feminine touch! She is one beautiful bad-ass rockin’ country girl! You gotta go see her some time!
Today, June 7th, I ventured over to the street festival on Broad, where music was permeating from numerous clubs. There were country bands everywhere, noticeably a lot of women singers and performers. The streets and sidewalks were filled with girls dressed in shorts, dresses, and skirts with cowboy boots, and plenty of cowboys, too! There was every style, shape, color, design, size of boot you could imagine. Because my first, and main mission on this day was to find me a killer pair ‘o boots, I was already ‘shopping’ by checking out the feet of everyone walking in my vicinity.
There were boot shops a-plenty, and I ducked in and out of every one of them. I have never seen such an inventory of cowboy boots, and couldn’t decide on what I wanted. These puppies weren’t cheap, so I needed the exact right pair to call my own. I wasn’t worried, though, because the way I operate is simple. The boot will choose me, make itself obvious, and jump out at me. This is exactly what happened to me with my totally bitchin’ cowgirl hat, and I never looked back. Once it’s a done deal, I’m a happy cowgirl!
I saw tons of boots, and many that I really, truly liked. But, nah! I passed them by because they just weren’t THE ONES! But, when I found myself off the main drag, a ways down a side street…BAM! I happened upon Hats Boots Company at 121 3rdAve. S…and there they were…MY boots! They weren’t obvious, at first, being subtle and quiet amongst all the competition. But, once I put them on, they took on a whole new personality. They’re chameleon-like – they’ll go with everything, because of their muted color combination, they change with the light, what you wear, the whole enchilada. They rocked! And, thanks to salesgirl Stacy, who helped, assured, informed, and all I needed to pull the trigger, I now own a killer pair of cowgirl boots from Nashville, Tennesse! Oh, and they gave me a killer discount, so I tossed in an orange cowgirl hat sitting on a sale table near the register. After all, every good country western loving SF Giants fan needs an orange western hat! Yeehaw! And, you can be sure I’ll be sportin’ them to the CMA Fest tonight!
After about an hour of scoping out the street scene (and lugging my new boots around,) I needed to get back to spiff up for tonight’s show at LP Field: Glen Campbell, Miranda Lambert, Kellie Pickler, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band, Lauren Alaina, and last but certainly not least, Brad Paisley. I was looking forward to seeing the legendary, Glen Campbell, especially since I know this will probably be the end of touring for him, thanks to Alzheimer’s. So, I was excited to see him on the bill, knowing that I would be witnessing a little part of history. And, because of my new attraction to country music, I have become a fan of Miranda, Jason and Zac, and was very happy to see that Brad was tonight’s headliner! What a night this was going to be!!
Broadway Street (aka. “Broad”) is the main drag through Nashville’s downtown area. It reminds me of a mini-Bourbon Street, loaded with people, places, and music (oh, and tons of neon signs!) though a lot less tacky. Our first pit-stop was to Station Inn (http://www.stationinn.com/). Here, in this underground basement, was the history of where Bluegrass and Roots Music pickers played “unplugged” way before it was popular. This night we specifically went to see Suzy Bogguss. (http://suzybogguss.com/about.asp) a platinum selling songstress who has a full bookshelf of Grammy and CMA awards. Suzy and her band were smooth and easy to listen to. Her voice is melodious and pleasant, making it very easy to get lost in the songs. She is also a nice little storyteller, filling the audience in on factual tidbits, as well giving us a chuckle or two with her humor. She definitely knows how to entertain an audience in more ways than one.
Next, it was off to see the Don Kelly Band at Robert’s Western World (http://robertswesternworld.com/) on lower Broadway. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was towards the end of the DKB set, so we only caught about 4-5 songs. But, I must say, they were impressively rockin! Apparently, they play here four nights a week, and though this was a Wed. night, the place was hopping! They played familiar (and well loved) classic Country Rock, but they didn’t just deliver them….they nailed them. It was impossible to sit still and/or refrain from dancing. These guys were just too good. Between the lead guitarist’s amazing talent, and the standup bassist who’s unique style was hard to take your eyes off, this band drilled their stuff straight to my bones and got me into what I call “my zone.” (Zone=eyes closed, feeling the music, moving to the groove, in another world, almost drugged.) A close guy friend (ie. my ex-husband) used to say it was like I had just shot up, mainlined music right into my arm. And, he’s kinda right. Music is my drug – it makes me forget my worries and troubles, it puts me in a happy place, and it’s what I call a cheap form of therapy. Tonight was just the start of this stop on my musical quest.
Tomorrow (June 7) begins the Country Music Festival (http://country.cmaworld.com/cma-music-festival), which is the reason I came to Nashville. (I also have friends living here who may be even crazier music fanatics that me!) And, being new to the Country scene, this will give me a good taste of what this type of music is all about…live and in person, that is. I’ve been listening a-plenty lately, and have become a new fan of a number of these southern artists. But, now is the time to see them perform and show us what they got!!
The first, and only time I saw Sonny Landreth was at the 2008 Metro Fountain Blues Festival (http://fountainbluesfestival.com/) in San Jose, CA. There were so many awesome performers that year – Robert Cray, Koko Taylor, Shane Dwight, etc, but Sonny’s unique style of guitar playing stood out among the talent. His slide playing and finger picking held my attention from start to finish. His performance was so memorable that, when I heard he was at Jazz Fest, I was very excited. After all, it had been four whole years since I had the pleasure of hearing him play!! I was overdue!
When I arrived at the Blues Tent, I wasn’t alone. Ha! Not even close!! But, I’ve been to enough concerts, festivals, etc, to know that there are usually available seats up front. People tend to be shy or intimidated about walking to the front of the crowd (as I used to be) and asking for a seat. So, I made my way directly to the front and center section of seating and found that I was wrong. Well, I wasn’t really, but so many people were holding seats for friends that they wouldn’t let anyone squeeze in. So, I sat on the floor in the aisle along with others. Security was very lacking at this whole event, but in this case, it worked for me. So there I slunk, making sure I didn’t block anybody or anything. And, I had a great view of Sonny and the boys!
Sonny is from southwest Louisiana, by way of Mississippi, and has music in his soul. He specializes in blues, zydeco, and a bit of rock. He commands the stage in a very humble and unpretentious way, with a guitar that does all the talking. Besides his slide guitar playing, I am thoroughly entertained by the way he slaps, taps, and whacks the guitar strings for his unique and different sound.
I eventually got a seat up front when I noticed one of the few, overworked security guards walking up and down the aisles of the front section, demanding that people quit saving chairs so that those who were actually there in the flesh could sit. Thank you, Mr. SG! I enjoyed the rest of the show in a comfortable seat in the hot Blues Tent and was throughly entertained from the first note to the last. Thank you, Sonny for another great performance!
And then came BRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCE!! The Boss and his E-Street Band (along with guitarist, Nils Lofgren) was the final headliner of this first weekend of Jazz Fest. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve seen these guys before, and whereas I like plenty of their songs, have never been a huge fan. However, I have a great respect for him and, after this performance was impressed with more than just his music. With the numbers that gathered for Bruce & the boys (an estimated 60,000+) and that it was their second appearance at Jazz Fest (the first was in 2006,) not much needs to be said about their popularity. This band will undoubtedly go down in history. I think they already have…
Bruce, dressed in black, hit the stage running, with ‘Badlands’ and ‘We Take Care of Our Own.’ He stayed upbeat and rocking for awhile, but then changed things up and went mellow on us. For someone who usually stands during an entire concert, these low points sat me down with closed eyes for the ‘listening only’ experience. This is where I realized just how emotional and sentimental Bruce Springsteen is. He referred to Hurricane Katrina – those who were lost, the land that was damaged, ghosts, crime, etc. – and did so with such feeling that he brought many to tears. But, he didn’t keep us mellow for too long, showing his humor when he fell back against the drums and recovered by joking about how “dangerous it is up here!” He also did a little crowd surfing, danced with a woman at the side of the stage, and gave a teenage boy a moment to remember, when he pulled the kid up on the riser that went out into the audience and had him sing with him. The kid was beside himself with the surreality of it, but knew the words to the song and sang into the microphone Bruce handed him while the two had their arms over each others’ shoulders. It was sweet.
Despite the heat and humidity, Bruce gave it his all, performing a wide variety of songs. He played the hits, ‘Prove It All Night,’ ‘Born to Run,’ ‘Dancing in the Dark,’ ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,’ and got me, and the crowd, into a frenzy again. Then, he downshifted again and, when he was handed a sign from the audience that said, “New Orleans Loves Clarence,” he held it against his chest, closed his eyes and got visibly choked up. This was the first tour since Clarence Clemons, E Street’s longtime saxophonist, passed away last year.
There were a lot of ups and downs, highs and lows, happiness and sadness, in this performance. It showed me a man who isn’t afraid to reveal and share his feelings and emotions to the world. This man is a true blue, red-blooded American who loves his country and its people. He writes about it, sings about it, shares it with others, and is loved and respected because of it. He is thankful and grateful for the love he receives from his fans, and today said to the crowd, “Thank you for making us feel at home again!” Experincing this show was close to a religious experience at the Church of Bruce Springsteen. He has the abitlity to make you feel the joys and pains of life through his music. Just like any good ‘preacher,’ he walks the walk, talks the talk, sings the songs, and takes his audience with him. And, whereas I haven’t been the biggest Springsteen fan in the past, I have a totally new and different view of him. Singers, performers, and those in the spotlight have the power to influence people, for the good and the bad. This man uses his power and fame to send out heartfelt messages to others with honesty, integrity, dignity, respect, and pride. I hope that the younger generation will learn from him and do the same.
Bye, Jazz Fest – hope to see you again some time!!!
For my album on Jazz Fest, click here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nadinerocks/
***Day 3 – Finally catching the drift of how this gig works, my pals and I decided to get to the Fest early today. Realizing that the weekend was about ten times more populated than Friday, we thought we were on top of our game! Early to us was arriving before noon. I have now learned that, in the future, early means getting in line long before the doors even open, pitching a mini-campground, then take a nap until the music starts. Live and learn! However, we managed to stake out a spot in an area with a clear view of the stage, no matter how many people came during the day and tried to block our sight lines.
Once parked, it was over to Fais Do Do I went. Today I caught the ‘Hadley J. Castille Family & the Sharecroppers Cajun Band.’ (http://www.hadleyjcastille.com/) Being a sunbleached California girl influenced by the Summer of Love and surf music, a band with a name like this couldn’t be more foreign to me. But, I’m absolutely fascinated by a history that couldn’t be further from my own. This band of three generations – dad, son and grand-daughter – plays authentic Louisiana Cajun fiddle music from the deepest south, combining an intoxicating blend of both a traditional and contemporary swing influenced sound. I especially liked the way grandpa and grand-daughter joined together and played the fiddle. Not only did they show how music transcends generations, but it shows how deeply imbedded music is into a family’s DNA. Watching them interact, understand each other, have fun, and make music together was very sweet.
Because of the 2012 poster by New Orleans native Terrance Osborne, with its brightly colored combination of abstract shapes and heavy brush strokes, depicting New Orleans native, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, there was lots of hype about this young musician. So, of course I wasn’t going to miss it…and darted back to the big stage for his show. This 25 year old man, a kid to me really, came out strong and powerful, blowing his trombone like a rock star. A New Orleans native, he got his nickname at the young age of four after watching his older brother march in a street parade. His fascination with his brother’s trombone, which was twice as long as Troy was tall, was the start of the musical journey of Trombone Shorty. (http://www.tromboneshorty.com/bio.aspx)
His youthful approach to playing his trombone is refreshing. He’s got a cool style that brings this instrument to the forefront of the band, unlike the more common sight of having it embedded in a horn section. Since he is the leader of the band – and the front man – who commands and controls his horn like it’s a toy, it brings a whole different kind of flavor to bands I typically see. He bounced all around the stage, blowing away on both the trombone as well as a trumpet, and because of his charismatic way, was a delight to watch. He was joined by saxophone player, Dave Koz for a song or two, as well as Dr. John and his piano. And, although I was completely entertained by his performance, I had to cut my viewing short in order to catch another entertaining musician over in the Blues Tent. Sonny Landreth, who I had first seen 3-4 years ago at the San Francisco Blues Festival, was starting soon and I wasn’t going to miss him! So, off I went, weaving through the throngs of people to make my way to the Blues Tent in time to catch Sonny!!