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CMA Fest 2023 Preview: 10 Must-See Moments

June 6, 2023 11:57 am GMT

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As we finally tick our calendars over to June, the gates have been flung open for country music fans far and wide to usher in the iconic CMA Music Festival.

Taking over downtown Nashville every June, the 2023 edition of the festival marks the 50th anniversary of Music City's four-day-long tradition, and this year's festivities are sure to be one for the history books.

Last year, CMA Fest saw over 80,000 fans from across all 50 states and 39 countries make their way to the country music capital of the world, as more than 260 acts took to various stages across the city. It's expected that even more attendees - as well as a larger bill of artists - will be on hand this year for the special country music spectacle.

With four days chock-full of both the format's biggest superstars and fastest-rising new faces, here's Holler's guide to 10 must-see moments at CMA Fest 2023.

Lainey Wilson Kicks Off CMA Fest 2023

One of Holler's all-time favorite country gals, Lainey Wilson, will grace the very first stage of this year's festival, which is a pretty strong start to a long weekend full of festivities.

She'll be taking the mic on the Chevy Riverfront Stage bright and early on Thursday morning at 10:00am. It will be the first of several performances from our Bell Bottom Country girl across the weekend.

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The Return of Spotify House

Returning for its second year, Spotify House is set to take over Blake Shelton's Ole Red in downtown Nashville throughout the star-studded weekend. Free and open to the public, Spotify House will host performances from Jon Pardi, Hailey Whitters, Jordan Davis, Sam Hunt, Riley Green, Brad Paisley, Ashley Cooke, Luke Grimes, Brothers Osborne, 49 Winchester, Alana Springsteen and many more.

Spotify House will also present its much-loved Fresh Finds Rooftop Stage, which will highlight newer acts in the genre, including Lauren Watkins, Griffen Palmer, Haley Mae Campbell, Meg McRee, Kasey Tyndall, Shelby Darrall and more.

HARDY's Main Stage Debut

HARDY, also known as country music's No. 1 rockstar, is making his main stage debut at Nissan Stadium on Friday, June 9. Even better news, while there's not technically a ‘headliner’ for the stadium shows, he is closing out the night's line-up.

Joining him on Friday will be Tanya Tucker, Cody Johnson, Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban and Lainey Wilson. With this information in mind, we here at Holler are willing to bet there will be a special appearance from a certain 'wait in the truck' duet partner... but you didn't hear it from us.

Nissan Stadium's Platform Stage

On the subject of the Nissan Stadium shows, which could be considered the central hub for CMA Fest weekend, we would be remiss if we didn't mention this year's stacked Platform Stage line-up.

Highlighting some of the most buzzed about and fastest-rising country newcomers during the stadium shows, the stage will welcome RVSHVD and Ashley Cooke on Thursday night, Hailey Whitters and Dalton Dover on Friday, Ian Munsick and Alana Springsteen on Saturday and Megan Moroney and Nate Smith on Sunday night to close out the weekend.

Fan Fair X

Described as the “ultimate experience for country music fans”, Fan Fair X offers CMA Fest attendees up-close and personal access to some of their favorite artists.

Located inside Music City Center, and providing what will be some much-welcomed air conditioning, Fan Fair X will feature indoor stages with acoustic performances, artist interviews, games, shopping and more. Admission is included with all four-night stadium pass tickets.

CMA Fest Artists of the Day

An annual tradition, this year's Artists of the Day include Dierks Bentley on Thursday, Reba McEntire on Friday, Brothers Osborne on Saturday and Wynonna Judd on Sunday.

Ever the fan-favorite event, this year's programming will feature intimate interviews with each of the four country legends. The 45-minute chat will take place every day at 10:45am at the CMA Close Up Stage.

Jelly Roll's Country Heat Weekly Live Taping

Along with the daily Artist of the Day conversations, the CMA Close Up Stage will also see a handful of artists taping live episodes of Amazon Music's flagship Country Heat Weekly podcast.

Hosted by Kelly Sutton and Amber Anderson, Friday afternoon will find country-rock breakout star, Jelly Roll, recording his own episode of the podcast. Though Jelly Roll is not otherwise featured on any of the festival's 10 stages, we can suspect he'll be sharing all of the details behind his just-released debut country album, Whitsitt Chapel.

Ern's Cadillac Music - In the Round

At the top of the year, breakout Big Loud recording artist Ernest launched his new publishing venture, Ern's Cadillac Music, in partnership with Big Loud Mountain Music. Named after the car featured on the cover of his 2022 album, Flower Shops, the company has signed songwriters Chandler Walters, Rafe Tenpenny and Cody Lohden to its growing roster.

Quite the prolific songwriter, Ernest will be hosting his own Ern's Cadillac Music songwriters round on the CMA Close Up Stage on Thursday morning, which will likely feature Ernest alongside his writing roster.

Cadillac Three & Friends at Ascend Amphitheatre

CMA Fest will return to Nashville's Ascend Amphitheater this year with The Cadillac Three & Friends on Friday night (June 9). Offering another option for fans not lucky enough to nab stadium tickets, the country-tock trio will be joined by Boy Named Banjo, Randy Rogers Band, Elvie Shane, Tenille Townes and other special guests.

Pop-Up Shows Galore

As is tradition during CMA Fest, this year will find artists, labels and other music industry companies hosting their own pop-up stages and shows all over downtown Nashville throughout the whole week.

While most of the artist-specific programming is limited to lucky fan-club members, labels like Big Machine, Universal Music Group, Warner Nashville and more are taking up residencies at Nashville staples, including FGL House, the Skydeck Broadway and 6th & Peabody, respectively. There will also be special shows at artists’ bars up and down Broadway all weekend long.

All of that to say, attendees will have endless opportunities to see their favorite artists across the four-day celebration - and, best of all, most of these pop-up shows will be free of charge.

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Written by Lydia Farthing
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