Wednesday, June 29, 2011

(almost) Wordless Wednesday

I'm currently working -- yes, I said "working" in Destin, FL right now with my mom at a Writing Conference.  Meanwhile, my baby pride and joy are staying with their sweet, sweet Mimi and Rocky.  Something tells me they are not missing me too much.  The following are pictures I was sent depicting their goings-on.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

CMA Music Festival...Day 4

So, by now the Nashville heat has melted my brain.  Surprisingly, though, one can still live and function upright with liquid-brain!  Thus, we are up and at 'em again!

Today is going home hoo.  So our morning started by packing up the hotel room and loading the car.  Then we ventured into the Vanderbilt area and ate some yummy Japanese food.  Just don't order sweet tea!  (It's Japanese sweet.  It shocks your taste buds!)
Say "Cheese"!  We're hot, tired, hungry, and slightly delirious!

We were done.  Done with Broadway.  Done with the street stages.  Done with the heat and the crowds.  However, we were not done with country music.  So we headed super early to the LP Field-area of town in order that we would be first through the gates and get the best seats.  (Our FREE tickets were in a general admission section.)
Tonight's fourth and final lineup was the best!  It was certain to be a party!  On a side note, our section was kind of angled at the corner of the stage.  We had this perfect view from our seats:
Each night we would watch these stairs to see which stars would come and go from the stage.  For the most part, though, the entrance of the stage was on the other side.  We did see equipment being loaded and unloaded all night.

The JaneDear Girls started off the night.  They are really cute, but they seem a little un-easy on stage.  Just keep working it, girls.  You're sharing the same stage as these other big names to come.  You must be doing something right. 

My new super-fav's, The Band Perry came next:
Kimberly Perry looked so cute! (Above photo source).  She and her brothers were killing it on stage.

The Eli Young Band did a quick acoustic performance, then made way for Darius Rucker! That's him on the jumbo screen and in "person" in the blue jeans. He danced around and really put on a show.  You could tell he loved being right there with us in the heat!
Everyone was yelling "Hootie" which was appropriate considering during his set he sang "Only Wanna Be With You" from his Blowfish days.  (photo below source)
I mean, we were definitely going to be exhausted tonight!  Sweet Tracy Lawrence came out to do an acoustic set while we reved up for this hottie: (photo below source)
Hello, darlin'!  You have quite "The Voice", no pun intended!  We partied with Blake Shelton a bit.  Trace Adkins even made an encore appearance to duet "Hillbilly Bone" with BS.
I know it's hard to tell, but that's the 2 of them really jammin' together in the picture above.  Did you notice in the former shot how Blake is pointing at his brand new, shiny wedding ring?  That's what he did
whilst he had the pleasure of introducing the next act: Mrs. Blake Shelton A.K.A Miranda Lambert!
Oh, be still my heart!  This girl is fiesty and loveable all in the same!  She rocked it out and I can't decide if she's lucky to have Blake or if he is lucky to have her.  (photo below source)
However, consider yourself warned.  Whatever you do, do not -- let me repeat DO NOT -- release beach balls into the crowd during her performance.  During her set about 500 beach balls were thrown around while she was singing. One landed on stage, and she stomped the air out of it with her high heel, saying: "Is it just me or do those beach balls irritate the hell out of y'all?" She then asked everyone to hold onto them while she sang the emotional "The House That Built Me."

She brought her new group The Pistol Annies onstage to sing their new hit, then she finished her gig performing "Gunpowder and Lead".  Wow! 

I would say -- and sometimes looking back I do say -- Miranda Lambert's performance was hard to beat.  However, Taylor Swift certainly wanted to try.  Hello, Taylor Alison Swift!
Taylor (much to the chagrin of some pure-country fanatics) has a cross-genre style.  Her heart and her honesty fit in well with Nashville purists, but she likes to rock it out on stage.  Um, see below if you need proof: (photo below source next 2 images) 
But c'mon, can you really "rock" a stage if you're playing a banjo?
Taylor looked great!  She wore a seemingly hand-beaded multi-toned brown/tan mini dress and her signature black boots.  She was characteristically accessorized and made up with a 13 on her right hand and bright red lipstick.  However, all night, we were craning our necks and crossing our eyes to figure out what was written on her left arm.  Turns out, she wrote "Remember me in ribbons and curls, love your Baby Girl".  Those Sugarland lyrics sum up the unspoken knowledge that at 21 yrs old, Taylor is no longer our little teenaged singing sensation.  She's carving a place in this industry among her adult peers such as Jennifer Nettles, Miranda Lambert, etc.

Each night the concerts concluded with a beatiful fireworks display.  However, these were bitter sweet fireworks that we witnessed tonight.  Not only did they signal the end of this full weekend, they also reminded us that it was now 12:30 and we were looking at a 3+ hour drive.  Yeesh!  My head hit the pillow shortly before 5:00 AM on Monday morning.  Needless to say, I was exhausted, but it was so worth it!
Well, I hope to write soon about next year's CMA Festival.  This is definitely something I will add to my annual list! 

Until then,

Monday, June 27, 2011

CMA Music Festival...Days 2 & 3

WooWee...I'm so super sorry about the lag in posts.  First of all, CMA Fest took the best out of me and I needed some major recuperating time!  Then I have been a little busy this summer.  If I get a chance, I'll blog about all my goings-on.  But you know me so...don't hold your breath!

Okay, since when does it stay 150 degrees with 65% humidity in Nashville?  It must be the hottest, muggiest place on Earth!  It doesn't help that the streets during CMA Fest constantly look like this:
Can you say people everywhere?  EV.'RY.WHERE!!! Oh, and said people are hot and sweaty.  It's a mathematical equation that the sweatier a person is, the more likely (s)he will physically bump into you.  Needless to say, early into this Vaca we were looking into things to do INSIDE!  So, when we got the opportunity to have a private, un-advertised concert with Crystal Bowersox, we jumped on the chance!

Through the magic of Twitter, we were one of 100 lucky ones who got passes to an inside performance by "Mamasox" as she was known during her American Idol stint.  Um, hello the new object of your affection.  I heart Crystal!  Love her!  I'm totally in lurve!  Her original songs are so raw and honest.  And, she has a cutie-patootie musician husband, to boot!  Yep, I got her autograph and a picture with her.  She is so nice, too!  She was extremely gracious.
We also hung out a lot at the world famous Tootsie's lounge, which shares an alley with this famous landmark below:
That's the Ryman Auditorium.  The tourist ingrained in me wanted (practically begged) to take a tour of the Ryman.  Instead, I took pictures of its front facade and took shots in honor of it inside Tootsies!  Again, people, I needed some serious recuperation when I got home.  A'hem.  Moving on. Here we are in Tootsies:
Above with Laura is a beautiful young woman named Jordyn Mallory.  She is even more talented than she is pretty, if you can believe that!  She is beating the streets in Nashville urging her dream into fruition.   She and Laura know each other through the power of social networking and through their shared love of country music.  Someday you will hear Jordyn Mallory on the radio and I am proud to say I heard her when. 

Now, we didn't get to spend very much time with Kylee in Tootsie's.  She was busy doing this:
Sorry for the poor photo quality.  It was like a covert operation to take iPhone pictures of the lovebirds on the sly!  Yep, she found herself a cowboy!  Actually he turned out to be a Chicago boy via San Francisco, but close enough, right?  She was over there "true-lovin'" on him for sure!  Sadly, the clock has struck midnight and we are still waiting to hear the words "Happily Ever After".  I'll keep you posted!

On to Night 2's concert we went!  On Night 2 we enjoyed a pregnant Ashton Shepherd, Dierks Bentley, and Lady Antebellum.  Um, hellooooo!  They are super-talented, but there is also a permeable CHEMISTRY among them that suggests Hillary Scott may write their lyrics from experience...I'm just sayin'...Next up was the always-on-point Sugarland, Keith Urban, and Reba.  Y'all.  Seriously.  All those amazing artists in one night?  Someone pinch me!  And this is only halfway through the weekend!

Day Three

We are definitely winding down.  We are hot and tired and now constantly hungry.  So we rolled in for lunch at Margaritaville.  Hello Margaritas!  I may replace my Crystal Bowersox love with you!
After lunch, we visited The Stage.  Sound familiar?  No?  It is the bar on Broadway where parts of the movie Country Strong was filmed. 
Leighton Meester and Garrett Hedlund in 'Country Strong'
© Screen Gems
Well, we're not movie stars, but we do feel a little country strong. So, let's mug for the camera!
The stadium was quickly filling up, so you know what that means?  Time for Concert #3!  Tonight was one of those nights where I didn't think I was super excited about the lineup.  Boy, was I wrong.  It was amazing and one I'll never forget!
We had really quick appearances by Chris Young and Danny Goeke -- both reality-turned-country music stars.  Then Little Big Town took to the stage.  Among their popular hits, they sang a countrified version of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way".  I'm in love with this song all over again!
No, I didn't make that video, but we did have really great seats--especially considering they were free!  Here's how the stage looked each night as we took our seats:

Okay, so continuing the show after that crazy-cool Little Big Town performance was Martina McBride.  Girl's got some pipes, y'all!  And she brought out a surprise guest, Lauren Alaina to duet "Dream It Anyways" with her!  The crowd went wild.  
Next was Josh Turner and guess what...he introduced a surprise guest Scotty McCreery to duet "Your Man" with him.  Hooray for the current American Idol and American Idol runner-up for both being big ol' country stars in their own right.
We were not through yet.  Night 3 was proving to be way better than I thought.  I wasn't super pumped about Trace Adkins or Rascal Flatts who were set to close the show in that order but check it out.  Trace Adkins was in the news lately because his house burned to the ground.  He brought me to tears as he thanked his fans for their love and support. With an audible lump in his throat he said “But please take that feeling of generosity and point it somewhere else. Give it to the Red Cross or somebody like that because we’re okay,” Then he sang his new single, “Just Fishin'" about a dad's love for his daughter and I thought about Bobby and Caroline the whole time.

Last but not least we heard from Rascal Flatts.  They did their obligatory "Life Is A Highway" and such, but the cool part about their show was when they performed their new single "I Won't Let Go".  Everyone had been given these little pen lights upon entering the stadium and during this song, the venue was dark except for the starry night and 50,000 twinkling little lights.  There were few dry eyes in the house.

Phew!  I'm pooped, y'all.  But we have one more day!  Stay tuned!

Monday, June 13, 2011

CMA Music Festival…Day 1

I love country music or, as my mom recently called it, Country and Western. 167381_10150140768906271_19262061270_8410848_5432808_n So I was downright gleeful when sweet lucky Laura won (as in they were F-R-E-E) a set of 4 all access passes to the CMA Festival in Nashville!  Whoop, whoop!  Nash-Vegas, here we come!

I don’t like giving away the ending, but let me tell you, 4 days of music, beer, and 95-degree heat will really drain a person!  But when we pulled into town on Thursday, we wasted no time getting right down to business.
CMA Festival 004
Our first stop was to the streets!  There are stages set up everywhere featuring up-and-coming acts as well as veterans trying to make a comeback.  We stopped and listened to Casey James of American Idol 2010 fame.  Plus, he sure is easy on the eyes!

…a quick li’l bit of Casey’s “gig”
At Fanfare Hall, there were booths everywhere with stars doing meet-and-greets, autograph signings, etc.  On Day 1, we optimistically foolishly thought we would just be able to stand in a li’l line and meet whomever we wanted.  Nah.  Turns out, each artist like Kellie Pickler pictured below will have a set number of “tickets” which ensure your place in line.  After that people get in a "Hope Line” waiting to see if there is any time for left overs.  Both the line for tickets and the Hope Line had people camping out for hours.  Insanity.  I have other plans for my time in Music City.  However, we did walk around and observe the artists doing their thing.  Kellie was so cute and little!
CMA Festival 005
This guy below didn’t have a line.  Sadness.  So I wanted to make him feel welcomed to the industry.  His name is Mark McGraw and he is an up-and-coming.  He signed an 8x10 Glossy to Rob encouraging him to “Be a country star” in lieu of a rock star.  Cuteness.  Oh, and note to self to throw that dress away.  Or stand up straight.  Okay, both.
CMA Festival 009
Did I mention the insanity?  Included in the madness of the craze…the public’s wardrobe choices.  I mean, seriously?  Seriously?  Look to the right of Kylee and…wait for it…CMA Festival 010
…check out the view from behind:CMA Festival 012
Surprisingly, that didn’t kill our appetite, so on to dinner at Big River Grill.  Maybe we were starving, but it was amazing!  Delicious! Look at us cuties all lined up.  L-R that’s Kendra, Laura, me and Kylee.
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After we ate, we started heading to LP Field for the first of 4 nights of concerts.  I know the heat really weighs heavy on people, but c’mon.  Really?  These girls must be uber-sleepy, huh?CMA Festival 016
There she is behind the lovely Cumberland:CMA Festival 017
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Check out the massive stage set up:CMA Festival 019
We had general admission tickets, which put us on the 3rd level in first-come-first-served seats.  More on that later, though.  We were quite high, but at least there were jumbotrons for us to see the close-ups.
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Tonight’s lineup included the Zac Brown Band.  They played (among their popular hits) “The Devil Went Down Georgia”.  If you look closely at the screen below, you can see Zac “sawing on his fiddle and playing it hot”:
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Randy Travis came out for a bit: CMA Festival 027
Also singing with Zac Brown band were Alan Jackson, Amos Lee, and one of the newer stars of Country Music, Sonia Leigh.

Easton Corbin came out to do an acoustic bit during a set change.  “I’m A Little More Country Than That”.  Then Mrs. Jay Barker a.k.a. Sara Evans did her thing.CMA Festival 030
We got to hear Casey James again during another acoustic bit.  Then the best of the night (in my opinion) Jason Aldean wowed us.  And, yes, Kelly Clarkson joined him for “Don’t You Wanna Stay”:CMA Festival 031
Brad Paisley took the stage as the headliner this night.  Yes, in case you forgot, all of these big names played in one night!  We still have 3 more nights of great lineups. By the time Brad finished playing, it was well after midnight.  We had to get up super early the next morning because we just knew we could beat the system somehow and be able to rub elbows with all our favorite stars.  It was apparent we were not getting any sleep this weekend!

Stay tuned for 3 more days of Country Music’s biggest party!