Okay CMA Fest 2017 – well let me start this by saying I was not a country, blues or jazz music fan when I went on this tour. I love music and listen to a variety but I mainly went on this trip because my friend convinced me it would be an amazing experience and there’d be a lot of drinking and cowboys 🙂
We slightly changed our trip from the standard packages on here to accommodate a few extra locations that we had on our bucket list, I traveled with a girlfriend to San Francisco, Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, Vegas and LA. Music Tracks Travel (MTT) were more than happy to help us with our trip and we had nothing but great service – and they aren’t paying me to say it, though some free Ed Sheeran tickets would be nice!
CALIFORNIA to NASHVILLE
So San Francisco was great, I’d been before but my friend hadn’t so we did a few touristy things and got some shopping out of the way. We stayed at a really old school hotel right in downtown San Fran and did a fair bit of walking – lots of hills. Stand outs would be Alcatraz – definitely book in beforehand, the seals on the Pier and the seafood chowder – I’m not a seafood lover but my friends and family all rave about it. We were only in San Fran for a couple of days to adjust to time zones and see the sights then we caught the train to the airport and flew to Nashville the night before CMA Fest kick off.
CMA Fest 2017. Day One.
CMA Fest – wow! I had never been to a music festival so big, there was so much to see and do, I was surprised not being a country fan didn’t really hinder the experience, didn’t take long and I was singing along at the top of my lungs (could have been the cheap buds!). The people were lovely, the bars are just awesome and they love Aussies! First day we focused on getting our bearings and some cool merchandise before it sold out, stubby cooler in the bag. I’d won tickets to an intimate gig with Keith Urban at the HGTV Lodge, thanks again to the MTT team for reminding me to enter at 1am the month before we left! We lined up for Keith for in the sun and watched the Broadway stage, nabbed some free fireball merch and downed some Buds in the heat – be prepared it is hot, sunscreen and hat is a must. Keith was amazing and the venue was intimate, the show went for about an hour and I loved that he didn’t come prepared, he just played what the crowd wanted to hear – great artist, unbelievable guitarist.
After Keith we decided to hit the new FGL House for lunch but it was really crowded – everywhere is really crowded at peak times – so decided we weren’t hungry enough to line up and we went to a moonshine and whiskey tasting at Big Machine Records next door… win or fail either way. So much fun as they gave us double shots because we were Australian and then we had to make it back downstairs after the 80 proof shots where we then decided it was a good idea to head back to the hotel for a quick nap. I’m a drinker but who drinks 50-80 proof alcohol and enjoys it? They even teach you how to properly down it so you don’t take in the fumes pre-shot! I mean really!
Thankfully the MTT team only book hotels in downtown Nashville because there is no way I’d of made it on a shuttle into and back out of town every day, before the stadium show or when I needed a nap from too many shots at 11.30am.
So after the nap we had lunch at Rock Bottom Brewery then caught some acts at the Riverstage, great venue, zero shade, again sunscreen and hat is a must! We are still on day one and had the stadium show to go OMG. So we headed to Famous rooftop bar and then walked the bridge across to the stadium with the other ten thousand people. My first stadium concert in the states and it did not disappoint, the crowd was huge, relaxed and excitable, the drinks were a plenty and the seats were great. We’d only booked a Roadie package for CMA Fest but it was awesome!
Each artist did about a half hour or so set and a surprise performance from Garth Brooks really got the crowd going and I was thankful I’d learned Friends in Low Places earlier in the trip haha. Luke Bryan didn’t come on till midnight but that didn’t stop us shaking it and the crowd was just loving it. Then it was all over for the night… well the show was, we headed back across the bridge and to Honky Tonk Central where the band was just as good as some of the acts we’d seen during the day and we danced the night away with many fireball and ginger (dry is called ginger in the states – worked that out early on).
CMA Fest 2017. Day Two.
Day two, we decided we’d take it easy today and wander around, maybe buy some boots and just see the sights. I don’t think there was a bar left on Broadway we didn’t get to, we went to every roof top and enjoyed many a vodka before switching to fireball at the Tequila Cowboy and buying a one of a kind Shot Shot Shot singlet! Caught some more acts at the Riverstage and enjoyed more free promo gear from the fireball girls and from Fan Fair X. It was cool checking out some of the meet and greets – again crowds so get in early if you want to meet anyone. Had lunch at the Hard Rock Café and enjoyed the performances there. The Nashville Predators (ice hockey) were also playing at in a qualifying final so everywhere was busy with their supporters. The stadium show was great, again, and hot stadium tip, the vodka lemonades are tasty but the margaritas have more booze – if you’re looking for bang for your buck on the cocktails. Make sure you drink a load of water, the heat takes it right out of you which we found the next day.
CMA Fest 2017. Day Three.
Day three, Saturday, this was to be our big night, FGL were last to perform and we were heading to their bar after the concert, that was the plan! We were outrageously hungover from the previous day/night and didn’t make it to anything during the day but did figure out that dominos will deliver to the hotel! We managed to drag our sorry butts out of bed and get to the stadium show just in time for Maren Morris, great voice, and we decided to continue drinking, big night planned an all that we eased into it with beer and then switched to cocktails. You have the same seats for the concert each night and the lady next to us was from New York State and we’d chatted to her and made friends over the last few nights and she was concerned we were late which was sweet, haha. We made it to FGL House and partied it up with what I think were some kind of sports team, we missed seeing Chase Rice, he’d been there the night before but we did see Sam Hunt! I was amazed I actually knew who they were at this point especially as I had consumed a few fireballs or was it vodka, no idea anymore.
CMA Fest 2017. Day Four.
Last day, day four, managed to make a few stages and just take it easy today, the hungover from the previous night at FGL House had kicked in so food was on cards. Oh yes and the food / restaurants in Nashville are awesome, we got recommendations from locals which were just delish and cheap! Keith was playing tonight so we wanted to be in working order for that. We kept in the shade most of the day, the Hard Rock Stage had become a favourite so we enjoyed a few drinks there. That was pretty much the Sunday, cruised the stages, stadium show and fireworks, thank you CMA Fest.
Up early the next day and it was like it had never happened, stages were down and roads were open, very organised. We’d booked in the Jack Daniels Lynchburg tour so that was fun day out, few more shots and some pulled pork sandwiches, weirdest thing was the distillery is in a dry country so there is no alcohol sold at all, yet “that’s where Jack lives!”.
We did a backstage tour of the Opry the day after that and checked out the Opry Mills Mall quickly, we’d planned to check out the open mic night at the Bluebird but even though we arrived an hour before they recommend lining up we missed out on getting in. So we did dinner at a bar downtown and then that was Nashville, on to Memphis for us.
NASHVILLE to MEMPHIS.
Downtown Memphis was fun, bar hopping along Beale Street, dancing on the bar at Coyote Ugly, the Peabody ducks, Gracelands and Sun Studios all musts. Just maybe don’t get kicked out of any bars haha whoops, little too much fun was had after enjoying the band at BB King’s House of Blues and smashing the screen on my iphone. Graceland VIP Tour was great, not a massive Elvis fan but was interesting to see the grounds and the memorabilia. Sun Studios was really cool, our tour guide was really animated and full of info and after watching the series I felt like I had an inside track. I did really dig getting to have my photo taken in the studio with the mic that Elvis (and others) used, very cool. Now I am going all muso…
MEMPHIS to NEW ORLEANS.
From Memphis we flew to New Orleans, humid and a little on the nose but a pretty city with a lot of history. We stayed right on Bourbon Street at the Bourbon Hotel which was fun and our hotel was haunted which I found out the day we left thankfully because it creeped me out. We spent our days wandering the streets and enjoying the vibe, amazing voodoo souvenirs and I loved the masks. Not a fan of Creole food, had a bit of an upset tummy though it might have been the last few weeks catching up to me who knows. After a couple of days of drinking and partying on Bourbon Street we flew to Vegas.
NEW ORLEANS to VEGAS.
Vegas was about fifty degrees in the shade but a great time! I’d managed to convince the bartender at the Hard Rock Hotel where we were staying to put State of Origin on for me at 5am when I’d made it back there after a night on the town. We did some outlet shopping, picked up some bargains, jammed more into the suitcases. Saw the old Vegas strip and played in new Vegas, didn’t see any shows this time but I’d been to Vegas before so it was a fun time anyways.
VEGAS to LA.
LA was the next and final stop before home and we didn’t stop drinking, we stayed just off Sunset Strip behind the Chinese Theatre and just bought a hop on hop off bus ticket to see the sights. We only had 24hrs so we just ticked off the lists of the sights and sounds of Hollywood.
It was a big trip, a long trip, a trip dowsed in alcohol and sunshine, a trip I would definitely recommend and definitely do again! Converted country fan!
See you all hopefully in 2019!