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CMA experience: Up close and personal

Did you watch the CMT music awards from the comfort of your couch this year?

South Boston native Stacie Griffin and her boyfriend, Justin King, experienced country music front and center in Nashville, Tenn. during the Country Music Association music festival last month, including the live show and broadcast of the CMT music awards.

The found themselves in the presence of some of country music’s best including Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Jake Owen, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, The Band Perry, Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Lauren Allaina and Eric Church.

According to Griffin, in April the couple began planning their trip to Nashville after King heard one of his co-workers had CMA music festival tickets for sale. 

“One of our favorite things as a couple is attending concerts and listening to music in general. We have attended several concerts together and thought a week full of our favorite artists sounded like an awesome trip,” said Griffin.

The tickets the couple purchased were four-day passes to the CMA music festival that included concerts from 10 a.m. until approximately 1 a.m. During the day, the up and coming artists would perform on five different stages in the downtown area of Nashville.

“There were also many other events going on throughout the day such as autograph signings. You had to enter a lottery or wait in long lines if you did not win tickets in the lottery,” said Griffin.

“I guess our chances of winning the autograph lottery was about the same odds as winning the mega millions, because our numbers were not drawn in the lottery,” she added.

Taking in the scenery and the music Tuesday, June 5, from the time they arrived after the nine-hour drive, they stayed at a hotel near the airport about 10 minutes from downtown Nashville where all the festivities were held.

However, the favorite part of the trip for the two was when they purchased tickets to the CMT music awards broadcast live on CMT.

“It was unexpected because our tickets did not include the show. We bought the tickets Wednesday just hours before the show. We watch the awards every year on TV, but it was so much better live,” said Griffin.

“The best way I can describe it was being like a non-stop concert for three hours and being able to see all of your favorite artists instead of just one or two,” she added.

When asked who was their favorite performer, Griffin responded, “This is a tough one. They were all great.”

“I would have to say Pistol Annies or Luke Bryan. I absolutely love Pistol Annies. I think Justin enjoyed watching Miranda too. All of their songs are fun to sing along to,” she added. 

“Little Big Town’s performance of ‘Pontoon’ was also great. The way they made it look like people were swimming, and they brought the boat was really cool,” she added.

During the music fest, Eric Church was the favorite of the pair.

“We absolutely loved Eric Church. We both have his CD in our cars and listen to his music all the time. When he sang Springsteen, all 65,000 people at LP Field were standing up and singing along,” said Griffin.

Jake Owen and Luke Bryan also had great performances at the music fest. 

According to Griffin, Jake Owen was definitely living a “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” as he was barefoot the entire time, and he even crowd surfed. 

Luke Bryan also put on a great show and interacted well with the crowd. 

“Any girl would have loved to have seen him shaking it.He definitely made the speakers go ‘boom boom’ that night,” said Griffin.

When the couple wasn’t attending the numerous concerts, they took time to soak up some of Nashville’s history. They visited the Ryman Auditorium, which used to be the home of the Grand Ole Opry, and artists still perform at the Ryman today.

“We were able to go backstage to the dressing rooms, which was neat, thinking about how many famous people had been there,” said Griffin.

They also ate at several different places including the Wild Horse Saloon, which according to Griffin was probably the best as far as food and atmosphere.

“They have a huge dance floor, and they conduct line dance lessons while you eat. It was very entertaining to watch.”

However, Griffin added that neither she nor King joined in on the line dancing. Everywhere one chose to eat in Nashville had live music playing in the background.

Although they weren’t able to snag a winning lottery to get an autograph or to meet any of the famous country singers up close and personal, while shopping in one of the shops downtown, they found themselves standing about six feet from Lauren Alaina.

“That was pretty cool,” said Griffin.

The couple stayed in Nashville and enjoyed the remainder of the CMA music festival until Sunday, June 10, before beginning the long drive back to South Boston.

“Justin avoids flying at all costs,” said Griffin of their travel choices.

And when asked what the two would change about their trip, King responded, “Stacie would not have locked the keys in the trunk at the hotel.”

However, Griffin had a different outlook on the trip. “Not a thing! It was perfect.”

Since the two have been back from their trip they have not been able to stop talking about it nor have they been able to catch up on their sleep. 

Griffin said the pair had such a great time they can’t wait to go back again.

“We would encourage anyone who loves country music to experience it just once. The passes get you into the night concerts with the ‘big names,’ but all the concerts during the day are free.”