From Surprise Collaborations to Electrifying Performances: 13 Highlights of CMA Fest in Nashville

From Miranda Lambert, to Corey Kent, to Megan Moroney, and Cody Johnson, here are 13 unforgettable moments from CMA Fest.

By

Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

June 13, 2023

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Miranda Lambert, Corey Kent, Megan Moroney, Cody Johnson; Photos by Andrew Wendowski

CMA Fest marked its 50th Anniversary with a record-breaking celebration in Nashville, June 8 through June 11. 

The four-day event hosted an estimated daily attendance of over 90,000, a 12% increase from 2022, according to the Country Music Association. Additionally, the nightly concerts at Nissan Stadium saw 10% growth from 2022.

The festival also hosted fans from all 50 states as well as a record-breaking 51 countries.

“What a weekend! As we’ve spent the past year reflecting on this milestone celebration, one theme has persisted—the incredible connection between Country Music fans and the artists,” Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer, shared in a statement. “It’s magical because it still matters after all these years. From first-timers to legends, so many artists started as fans—some as far back as Fan Fair. Almost every artist who performs during the festival has had their own experience as a fan, so for many of them, taking the stage at CMA Fest is a full-circle moment. We only get the chance to celebrate our 50th anniversary once, and to do so in such an impactful way has meant the world to us. Thank you, Country Music!”   

More than 300 acts took part in CMA Fest this year, including performances at the Chevy Riverfront Stage, Dr Pepper Amp Stage, Chevy Vibes Stage, Maui Jim Reverb Stage and the Hard Rock Stage as well at Fan Fair X inside Music City Center. 

Here are the 13 highlights from CMA Fest 2023. 

Miranda Lambert, Leon Bridges; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Miranda Lambert, Leon Bridges; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Miranda Lambert Welcomes Superstar Guests 

The 14-time CMA Awards winner brought the star power during her electric set at Nissan Stadium. In addition to treating fans to performances of some of her biggest hits, Lambert also joined forces with Elle King (“Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home),” Leon Bridges (“If You Were Mine)”, and Avril Lavigne (“Kerosene” and “Sk8er Boi”).  

Tim McGraw; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Tim McGraw; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Tim McGraw Touches Hearts With “Humble And Kind” 

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house on Sunday evening when Tim McGraw invited 5th and 6th-grade students from Metro Nashville Public Schools to join him on stage to perform his chart-topping hit, “Humble and Kind.” The performance was coordinated through the CMA Foundation.   

Lainey Wilson; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Lainey Wilson; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Lainey Wilson Dominates On The Big Stage 

Reigning CMA New Artist of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year, Lainey Wilson solidified her superstar status with her standout performance on the Nissan Stadium stage. If festival attendees weren’t a fan of Wilson when they walked into the stadium on Friday evening, they were by the time they left. 

Cody Johnson, Reba McEntire; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Cody Johnson, Reba McEntire; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Cody Johnson Surprises With Reba McEntire 

Texas came to Tennessee on Friday night when Cody Johnson brought his energetic live performance to the main stage of CMA Fest for the first time ever. Johnson had fans in the palm of his hands during “‘Til You Can’t” and “Human,” and their excitement went through the roof when he was joined by Reba McEntire for a performance of her breakthrough hit, “Whoever’s In New England.” 

Lainey Wilson, Lauren Alaina; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Lainey Wilson, Lauren Alaina; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Lauren Alaina and Lainey Wilson Debut Cheeky Duet 

Fans at the Chevy Riverfront witnessed the first-ever performance of Lauren Alaina and Lainey Wilson’s red-hot new duet, “Thicc As Thieves.” Wilson surprised the audience when she joined Alaina on stage just hours after the song’s official release. The show-stopping performance was undoubtedly a highlight of the week.  

Corey Kent; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Corey Kent; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Corey Kent Shines During Breakout Moment  

The Oklahoma native drew an impressive crowd at the Chevy Riverfront. Fans flocked to the free show to experience his undeniable stage presence and witness his just-released debut album, Blacktop, come to life. His performance of his first-ever No.1 single, “Wild As Her,” had fans singing along at the top of their lungs. 

Luke Combs, Vince Gill; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Luke Combs, Vince Gill; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Luke Combs Delights With Surprise Vince Gill Duet 

Two-time CMA Entertainer of the Year, Luke Combs, never ceases to impress and his set on Thursday event during CMA Fest was no different. He seemed to have an extra pep in his step all night as he was grinning ear-to-ear. Maybe it was the support from the fans, or maybe it was his surprise deut with his musical hero, Vince Gill, that has him smiling. Either way, it was a memorable performance. 

Jordan Davis; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Jordan Davis; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Jordan Davis Proves He’s A Superstar 

Celebrating his first-ever full set at Nissan Stadium during CMA Fest, Jordan Davis had the crowd rocking with an energetic performance that included hits like “What My World Spins Around,” “Almost Maybes,” and “Singles You Up.” Fans lit up the stadium during his tender rendition of “Buy Dirt.” This was his first, but definitely not his last performance on the big stage.   

Alabama; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Alabama; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Alabama Receives High Honor  

CMA Fest attendees were shocked to see the legendary band Alabama take to the Nissan Stadium stage on Sunday evening. The nine-time CMA Award winners performed “Mountain Music” a medley of “Dixieland Delight” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” They were also surprised with CMA Pinnacle Award. Previous recipients of the honor include Garth Brooks (2005), Taylor Swift (2013), and Kenny Chesney (2016).     

Megan Moroney; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Megan Moroney; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Megan Moroney Hosts Riverfront Sing-Along 

Moroney proved her rising star power as she brought a brought a capacity crowd to the Chevy Riverfront Stage. The standout singer/songwriter had fans singing along to several tracks from her just-released debut album, LUCKY. “Tennessee Orange” drew the biggest reaction as she closed out her set with a massive sing-along.  

Jo Dee Messina; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Jo Dee Messina; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Jo Dee Messina Reminds Us Why She’s A Star   

Fans had the chance to re-live Jo Dee Messina’s incredible catalog of hits when she opened Thursday’s Nissan Stadium concert. Her vocals shined throughout performances of “Bye, Bye,” “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” and more.  

Jelly Roll; Photo by CMA
Jelly Roll; Photo by CMA

Jelly Roll Gets Emotional 

Nashville native experience a dream come true moment when he stepped onto the stage at Nissan Stadium to perform “Need A Favor” and “Son Of A Sinner.” Jelly Roll was overcome with emotions at the conclusion of his performance and tears began to stream down his face as fans began to chant his name.  

Luke Bryan; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Luke Bryan; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Luke Bryan Closes Out CMA Fest On A High Note   

CMA Fest 2023 came to a close with a bang when Luke Bryan lit up the stage with his hit songs and signature dance moves. There’s a reason why Bryan was crowned CMA Entertainer of the Year twice, and this performance reminded fans why.   

CMA Fest was taped for television and will air on ABC on Wednesday, July 19 at 8/7c.   

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Lauren Jo Black

Written by

Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for Answers.com and her work being featured on Forbes.com. She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.