One song. That’s all Lil Nas X has in his repertoire. But it was all he needed to satisfy a jostling, anxious crowd who waited in the rain until nearly 1:00 a.m. at day one of Spotify’s four-day CMA Fest takeover in Nashville to get a glimpse of the viral yeehaw star, who rapped on the rooftop lounge of Ole Red with the peak of the Ryman Auditorium visible behind him.
In the end, the performance of “Old Town Road” itself couldn’t help but feel a little anticlimactic after all the build-up to the single-song set. Rather, it was the anticipation of seeing Lil Nas X in the flesh that energized the fans who swarmed Ole Red’s Lookout bar. While some were lucky enough to score space under cover, others pushed in tight in an attempt to both stay dry and get closer to the postage-stamp stage, where Lil Nas X’s DJ and hype man played an array of siren sound effects and tracks like Jay Z’s “Public Service Announcement.” He needn’t have bothered — the crowd was already at fever pitch.
But before Lil Nas X emerged, Billy Ray Cyrus materialized with guitar in hand to tee up “Old Town Road.” Asking for a drink that he never got — how could he when he was only onstage for six minutes? — he strummed and sang his opening line. Finally, Lil Nas X, in a yellow-and-black jacket-and-jeans combo and black cowboy hat, bounded onstage to do that thing he does, which is not let nobody tell him nothin’. Cell phones went up, the guys in Midland, who had just finished their own set downstairs, squeezed their way into the scrum, and the crowd sang in unison about having their horses in the back.
And then it was over, with only Cyrus addressing the crowd to tease his next performance with Lil Nas X. “See you all later this week,” he said. Billy Ray Cyrus will perform at Nissan Stadium on Saturday night.