CMA Music Fest 2016: 30 Must-See Acts

From the big stadium headliners to newcomers on the Nashville riverfront

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Kelsea Ballerini
Rick Diamond/Getty Images5/30

Kelsea Ballerini

Last year's CMA Fest was Kelsea Ballerini's first as an artist, though she'd visited as a fan many times in her teen years. She played the modest stage set up outside Bridgestone Arena, meant for an audience of maybe 2,000 to watch comfortably, with a decent view of the stage. Well, 4,000 showed up. So this year, the CMA smartly promoted her to the big stage at Nissan Stadium. The "Peter Pan" singer has proven — by the crowds and the charts — to be country music's next big thing, and for CMA Fest specifically, she fills the Taylor Swift void. During her country-pop days, Swift brought a whole new demographic of fans to Nashville, and Ballerini's fanbase is largely similar. So is her live show: full of sass, energy and earworms.  Thursday, Nissan Stadium

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