CMA Fest 2019: 25 Must See Free Shows – Rolling Stone
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CMA Fest 2019: 25 Must-See Free Shows

From Dierks Bentley and Ashley McBryde to Morgan Wallen and Carly Pearce, the best no-purchase-required concerts

Morgan Wallen, Carly Pearce

Morgan Wallen and Carly Pearce are among the 25 must-see free concerts at the 2019 CMA Fest in Nashville.

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Tens of thousands of fans descend upon Nashville this week for the 2019 edition of CMA Fest, with many of them making the pilgrimage over the pedestrian bridge on the Cumberland River to Nissan Stadium for the nightly concerts. Those cost money and require a ticket, but much of the festival is free. Here’s 25 freebies that we think you just can’t miss.

Ricky Skaggs

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Ricky Skaggs

Since bridging bluegrass and country music in the Eighties, Ricky Skaggs has been rightfully enshrined in the Halls of Fame for both art forms and remains not only Bill Monroe’s most shining disciple but an inspiration to musicians of all stripes. The legendary entertainer, who’ll play Bonnaroo four days after this gig, continues to breathe new life into vintage music, ensuring a set that will appeal to fans of all ages. Sunday, Forever Country Stage, 11:00 a.m.

Carly Pearce

Jordan O'Donnell for Rolling Stone Country

Carly Pearce

A few years ago at CMA Fest, Carly Pearce was the buzzy new act with a bombshell single, her heartbreaking ballad “Every Little Thing.” This year, she’s appearing with a new album in the works, a dance-worthy track “Closer to You” and a career on a trajectory to country superstardom. Come for hits like “Hide the Wine,” stay for those pristine vocals and surefire spikes of her bluegrass roots. Friday, HGTV Lodge, 11:00 a.m.; Saturday, Riverfront Stage, 2:30 p.m.

Morgan Wallen

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Morgan Wallen

Morgan Wallen has successfully navigated the transition from Voice also-ran to chart-topping country star, updating his image to something approaching redneck hipster and releasing his excellent debut album If I Know Me in 2018. Wallen’s songs like “Up Down” are certifiable party jams, but it’s the cleverly written burners like “Whiskey Glasses” — now a Number One hit — and Wallen’s perfectly modulated sandpaper-rough croon that make him worth another look. Thursday, HGTV Lodge, 3:00 p.m.; Friday, Riverfront Stage, 2:30 p.m.

The Last Bandoleros

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The Last Bandoleros

Last month, the rock-Tejano quartet decimated a local club with a furious show that was broadcast on Nashville station Lightning 100. Here’s your chance to catch their off-the-rails performance style in the flesh and hear some of the punchy new songs the group has been working on (“No More, No Mas” is a winner), along with live favorites like the thumping “River Man.” Friday, Maui Jim Broadway Stage, 4:00 p.m.

Blanco Brown

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Blanco Brown

As Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” continues its domination, fellow country-rap mixologists like Blanco Brown are on the ascent. Georgia native Brown turned heads with his delightful, looped-pedal-steel dance number “The Git Up” earlier in 2019 and just recently put out his self-titled EP with new tracks like “Georgia Power” that feature his skillful combination of acoustic country-soul and rhythm-heavy rap. Friday, Acoustic Corner, 12:45 p.m.

Kassi Ashton

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Kassi Ashton

On Monday, Kassi Ashton debuted the swaggering new song “Field Party,” which she claims she wasn’t supposed to release until after CMA Fest. But that’s just how Ashton operates: tell her something she can’t do, and she’ll do it 10 times over. Expect that same fearless, give-no-shits approach at her CMA Fest set, along with the Missouri native’s huge, soulful voice. Thursday, Chevrolet Breakout Stage, 4:00 p.m.

Runaway June

Jordan O'Donnell for Rolling Stone Country

Runaway June

If there’s a group whose potential matches all the inevitable Dixie Chicks comparisons, it’s Runaway June — the trio of Naomi Cook, Hannah Mulholland and Jennifer Wayne. So far they’ve showed off a strong point of view and serious songwriting chops with singles like “Lipstick” and “Buy My Own Drinks,” currently their highest-charting release at Number 21. Thursday, Riverfront Stage, 12:00 p.m.

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