Hitting CMA Fest: A First Time for Everything

music musings, beaverdamusa.comThere’s a first time for everything.

You figure that after 52 trips around the sun, there aren’t many “firsts” left for me that aren’t connected to medical tests, conditions, or procedures.  I did experience a first.  Like an addict at a meeting, it’s confession time –

Nissan Stadium gets ready for the show.

“Hi, I’m Zach, I live in the Nashville area and I went to Fan Fair.”

Yes, after years of avoiding the crowds and making fun of the tourists, I attended a Fan Far event.  I know it is CMA Fest, but it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.  The company I work for (yes, I have a day job) typically has drawings each year for tickets to the stadium shows.  I have won them in the past, but due to the artists playing, my schedule, or the weather I have given them to family members.  There really wasn’t a reason not to go this year, so I said “what the hell.  Let’s go.”  My eldest, Will, and his girlfriend Haley went to the Thursday night stadium show as well.  We did take separate vehicles because I wasn’t staying until 11:30 p.m., on a school night to watch someone I didn’t like.

The legendary Charlie Daniels sawing the fiddle.

The legendary Charlie Daniels sawing the fiddle.

If you aren’t familiar with the format, the stage is set up in Nissan Stadium (home of the Titans), and each night (four in all) about four or five performers play a handful of songs.  The artist lineup is a mix of established acts and newer artists who have broken out.  I must say I was worried about the down time between acts.   They started on time and stuck to the schedule and didn’t vary by more than five minutes.  I figured they would use a house set of instruments, but they turned the stage each time.  Very impressed.

Oh, I guess I need to let you know about the actual show.  The stage was worthy of the stadium setting.  It even came with three or four-story video screens on each side of the stage.  Each segment was introduced by various country music DJs and personalities.  Their banter bordered on hokey, but what do you expect?  Here is the line-up and my thoughts:

  • Miranda Lambert wore spurs, from what we understand.

    Miranda Lambert wore spurs, from what we understand.

    The Oak Ridge Boys opened the evening with the Star Spangled Banner.  Great harmonies and represented the “has been” category for the night.

  • Charlie Daniels Band – introduction acknowledging Charlie’s induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in the fall.  Played four songs, including In America.  Charlie will be 80 later this year and still can throw down.  Literally shredded his bow on the Devil Went Down to Georgia.  He also brought out Randy Travis who suffered a massive stroke a while back.  Pretty sad watching him struggle to walk on stage.  He didn’t even speak to the crowd and looked confused.
  • Kelsea Ballerini – filling the breakout star slot, she ripped through five songs and quickly won the crowd over.  She mentioned that just three years ago, she was sitting in the upper deck and watching the show.  She truly seemed humbled to be on the big stage.  Only thing was that her “romper” was probably about an inch too short.  She spent the entire set tugging at it.  Anyone who went commented on it – so stop the perv comments.
  • Dierks Bentley – ehhh. Not really a fan.  Really seemed intent on working the crowd.  He even walked through the crowd and sang from a small stage in the middle of the crowd.  Nothing really remarkable for me, but the country fans with me said it was good.
  • Miranda Lambert – Here is the reason I went to Fan Fair.  There, I said it.  Yes, I love me some Miranda.  The keyword is spurs.  Yes, spurs.  She wore spurs on her boots.  The other word would be giddy-up.  She tore the house down with all of her hits and what could best be described as sassiness.  Did I mention she wore spurs?  Favorite song was Little Red Wagon.
  • Rascal Flatts – They sounded better the further they got into their set.  Full disclosure is that they sounded better the longer they played because I was walking to the truck and getting farther away.
  • Jason Aldean – supposedly he played.  I was probably about Exit 199 on I-40 when he came on.

I will admit that I had a great time.  I won’t even go into the people watching opportunities at Fan Fair.  They were exactly what you expect.


Zach, A Fan Fair attendee


Hold the Stuffing and Pass the Rock ‘n Roll

musings 250_edited-1I was really having trouble coming up with a topic for this edition of Music Musings.  No new CD’s, concerts, or books since the last column.  No one really made me angry in the music world lately, so I was at my wits’ end.  Then it hit me!  Next week is Thanksgiving!  What am I thankful for musically?  While I am thankful for health, family, housing, employment, etc.; I have decided to express my thanks for specific musical things.  In no certain order, I am thankful for:

  • My girlfriend (and later wife) asking me to volunteer at the Nashville Junior League’s Balloon Festival back in the early 90’s.  Because of this, I was there to see the Moody Blues with the Nashville Symphony under the stars.  This was the first time I heard rock music and a symphony combined.
  • Eddie Van Halen working a paper route to pay for his drum kit as a child.  If he hadn’t, Alex Van Halen wouldn’t have had the opportunity to take over Eddie’s drums.  As a result, Eddie took up Alex’s guitar and the rest is history as they say.
  • The local choir director pushing me out of my comfort zone.  If she hadn’t, I wouldn’t be singing in the church choir where I have permanent seat on the back row where me and my fellow basses live in the basement of the musical range.
  • Moving to South Cheatham County where I have lived in Pegram and Kingston Springs.  If I wasn’t here, I wouldn’t have made several friendships in the music world.  I treasure not only these friendships, but the music world I am connected to through them.
  • Les Paul wondering what an amplified guitar would sound like.
  • Getting to go to four of Charlie Daniels’ Volunteer Jams.  These concerts allowed me to see artists that I would have never seen before like James Brown, Roy Acuff, Quarterflash, Marshall Tucker Band, Molly Hatchett, etc.  What is the Volunteer Jam?  Google it.
  • My 32 gb iPod that allows me to put 3,500+ songs on shuffle.
  • Living in Music City USA and getting to see things that only happen in Nashville.
  • Discovering Jimmy Buffett several years ago.  I get his lifestyle and him.
  • Becoming a Jimmy Buffett fan which allowed me to discover Mac McAnally.

Lastly, I would like to thank you – the readers of Music Musings on the BeaverDam blog.  While we may never meet, I hope my rambling stories give you a chance to escape the real world for a while and maybe stir up a memory of so.  Hopefully, you discovered a new artist or learned about something while reading my virtual birdcage liner.  Of course, thanks also go to the BeaverDamusa.com website and my college roomie and dear friend Barry for asking me one day to write for his site.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Pause for a second and be thankful for not just musical things, but for all the things we are blessed to have.

Remembering Charlie Daniels’ Volunteer Jams

“Ain’t It Great to be Alive and
be in Tennessee!” — Charlie Daniels

Charlie Daniels hosted the Volunteer Jam for decades. Here, he plays for US troops in Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jeremy D. Crisp.)

Charlie Daniels hosted the Volunteer Jam for decades. Here, he plays for US troops in Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jeremy D. Crisp.)

With those words, Charlie Daniels kicked off the first Volunteer Jam I ever saw. He also kicked off every Vol Jam with those words. My first Jam (I think) was Vol Jam IX back around 1980 or so. It is strange how your mind jumps around.   I was walking through the parking lot at work strategizing getting my youngest son to his violin lesson. Violin turned to fiddle which made me think of Charlie Daniels and then Bam! I was suddenly thinking about the Volunteer Jam. For those of you from the Nashville area who are over 40 years old, you know about the Volunteer Jams. Read on for a walk down memory lane. If you haven’t a clue, read on about a great musical event that will probably never be duplicated again.

Charlie Daniels started the Volunteer Jams back in 1974. As the name suggests, it was basically a jam session where he invited all of his musical friends to stop by and play. The venue changed through the years from the War Memorial Auditorium to the Municipal Auditorium, to Starwood Amphitheater. The early Jams, including the first I attended, were truly spontaneous. Charlie didn’t know who was showing up until they were backstage. Each act would come out and play anywhere from two to five songs. Even lead singers without their bands would play with whoever was backstage. Charlie would typically open up the Jam with a set of his own. I noticed through the years that the length of his set depended upon how deep the lineup was backstage – the more people backstage, the shorter the set. It was fun between acts to try & guess who would be showing up next. Once my friend Joe & I saw a flute being brought out with the electric guitars. We immediately thought it might be Jethro Tull. Wrongo – Marshall Tucker Band. The number of acts was typically in the low teens, so the show typically ended around 2:00 a.m. The show would close with all acts (who were still around) coming back on stage to play a couple of songs together. Throughout the night, Charlie would introduce each act and come out and play with them.

The acts spanned all aspects of music and locale. There were gospel acts (Jordanaires), country (Roy Acuff), and rock (Ted Nugent). Some of the acts I saw were Billy Joel , Roy Acuff , Leon Russell , The Jordanaires , Jimmy Hall (Wet Willie), The Marshall Tucker Band , James Brown, Molly Hatchet , Crystal Gayle , George Thorogood , Bill Monroe , Papa John Creech (90 year old fiddle player), The Outlaws, Delbert McClinton , Quarterflash, and Ted Nugent – who actually bear-hugged Charlie and picked him up.

The latter Jams were broadcast on a radio network so they weren’t as spontaneous due to commercials, promotions, etc.  Also, I seriously doubt in today’s world that you could get acts schedules coordinated, egos checked, and waivers waived to pull off a concert event like the Jam.

However, all the Jams were great and allowed me to see a wide range of acts that I probably wouldn’t have gone to see by themselves. To answer Charlie’s question – Yes, it is good to be alive and to be in Tennessee.

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