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 Stumbled-Upon Surprise: Blake Shelton
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John Shearer/Getty Images16/25

Best Stumbled-Upon Surprise: Blake Shelton

Blake Shelton didn't take to his drinking buddy Twitter to announce his surprise free show at the Stage on Friday, nor did he sneak in from any sort of secret artist's entrance. He simply walked in the front door of the downtown Nashville honky-tonk, speaking to several fans as he made his way to the front row to enjoy the house band's cover of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Fishin' in the Dark." He then jumped on stage, explaining he was going to perform as sort of a makeshift fan club party. His hour-long set spanned his very first hit, "Austin" to more recent "Sangria," with between-song banter ranging from the witty to the sentimental. "Whenever it's CMA Fest week, I'm always jealous of people who get to come down here and play on Broadway," he told the crowd. "[Playing Nissan Stadium] is going to be fun, and I'm proud to be doing it, but this is way better. This is how I got started, singing and playing bars. . . and drinking with my people!"

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