Boots, booze and tattoos filled downtown Nashville -- more so than normal -- Thursday for the first day of the 2014 CMA Festival.
With 11 stages and more than 450 artists performing over the course of the weekend, those who took the stage to kickoff the festival Thursday did not hold back.
Big & Rich brought the country crazy starting the day at the Riverfront stage to a bevy of fans already excited at opening time at 10 a.m.
The group performed their signature songs, like “Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy,” but also added crowd pleasers like “Too Legit To Quit” and songs by Def Leppard.
“We don’t think there’s a better party in the world than what’s going on here in Nashville this weekend,” said band frontman John Rich.
Across the way at the Budlight stage, Trick Pony pulled out some tricks of their own, pumping the crowd up with their rockabilly style before slowing it down and honoring country legends Johnny and June Cash with the song “Johnny and June.”
Several former contestants from The Voice also rocked multiple stages at the festival, including Gwen Sebastian at the Samsung Galaxy stage and Cassadee Pope at the Riverfront stage.
“Every girl needs a good revenge song, and this one is mine,” Sebastian, who lends her voice on Blake Shelton’s new single “My Eyes,” said before performing her hit single “Suitcase.”
Fresh off her CMT Awards win Wednesday night, rising star and previous winner of The Voice Pope said she was “still in a daze” from all the attention and the win.
“Thank you to anyone who voted for me,” Pope said. “ If you didn’t like my speech, I’m sorry, but it’s really because I didn’t think I could win.”
Other big names also brought her house down at Riverfront, including new up-and-comers Cole Swindell and Dustin Lynch.
“Last year I was playing right over there at that Hard Rock stage and probably all of y’all didn’t know who I was,” Swindell said. “And now I’m here and it’s all thanks to the country music fans.”
Of course he means the same fans that showed up in hoards to kickoff the biggest festival country music has to offer, and the same ones that will stick around through Sunday to see even more names, big and small, display their talents and clout.
Friday has even more in store for CMA Fest attendees, from Craig Morgan and Sara Evans to Danielle Bradbery, Dan + Shay, Collin Raye, Kellie Pickler and many, many more.
For the nightcap at LP Field, Travis Tritt, Eric Church, The Band Perry, Jason Aldean, and country’s power couple, Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, are all set to perform.