25 Best Things We Saw at CMA Music Fest 2016

From Eric Church's show of artistic rebellion to Maren Morris's bohemian spirit

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Best Rebel Soul: Eric Church
Rick Diamond/Getty Images8/25

Best Rebel Soul: Eric Church

With stadium-ready anthems like "Springsteen" and "Drink in My Hand" in his arsenal, Eric Church could have spoon-fed the Nissan Stadium throng exactly what they wanted. Instead, he gave them what they, and CMA Fest, needed — even if they didn't realize it at the time. His entire five-song set, one of the most anticipated of the weekend, was made up entirely of material off his surprise album Mr. Misunderstood. As such, it was sublime, touching on story songs like the magnificent "Knives of New Orleans," the tempo-changing "Mr. Misunderstood" and the rollicking "Chattanooga Lucy," during which Church proved he can re-create the song's falsetto vocal live in front of 60,000. Ending with the soul-searching "Mixed Drinks About Feelings" and ceding the spotlight to touring vocalist Joanna Cotten, the Chief threw the ultimate curveball: a finale of quiet artistry over sing-along bombast. 

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