[Editor's Note: Sonicnet.com reporters are on-site to cover the 28th annual edition of Fan Fair, the unique four-day event in which country fans get to mingle with their favorite artists. The nonstop outdoor festival and autograph session runs Monday through Thursday.]
Country Editor Chet Flippo reports:
NASHVILLE The love fest between fans and country-music stars officially got under way Monday (June 12), after a weekend of star-studded preliminary events.
The four-day series of all-day concerts by major country stars as well as newcomers began Monday morning, with group Diamond Rio singing the national anthem at the Fan Fair site, the Tennessee State Fairgrounds.
Roughly 22,000 country fans poured into the grounds as the exhibit halls opened revealing everything from the decorated autograph booths of the country artists, to the exhibits of corporate sponsors, to the facilities of the 600-plus media outlets cranking out a continual stream of reports and updates.
Artists, Artists, Everywhere
The music got under way Monday with the Giant Records and Atlantic Records show, which ran from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Giant Records offered artists Keith Harling, Neal McCoy, Georgia Middleman, Johnny Staats and the Wilkinsons. Atlantic performers included Confederate Railroad, John Michael Montgomery, Craig Morgan, and SouthSixtyFive.
Next, from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., it was Warner Bros., Reprise, and Asylum Records' turn to parade their stable of artists, including Chad Brock who notched his first #1 Billboard hit this week, with "Yes!" Anita Cochran, Chalee Tennison, Bryan White and other guests who had yet to be announced.
Highlighting the evening was the 7 p.m.10 p.m. Sony Music Nashville show, featuring the debut in that city of 12-year-old sensation Billy Gilman. Other artists scheduled for the Sony show on Monday are John Anderson, Tammy Cochran, Billy Ray Cyrus who in 1992 first wowed a Fan Fair crowd with his massive debut hit, "Achy Breaky Heart" (RealAudio excerpt) Joe Diffie, Wade Hayes, Ty Herndon, the Kinleys, Danni Leigh, Montgomery Gentry, Collin Ray, Ricochet and Yankee Grey.
Ancillary events going on and around Fan Fair all week are many and varied, with artists such as Gretchen Peters and Ronnie Milsap popping up.
Friday evening saw one of a remarkable series of shows scheduled around Fan Fair when the Nashville Independent Film Festival (which scheduled its events to mesh with Fan Fair's dates) presented a unique lineup in an intimate restaurant/bar. Performing were Raul Malo of the Mavericks, singer/songwriter Peters, prolific singer/songwriter Guy Clark, Christian-music superstar Steven Curtis Chapman, Lyric Street's new gold-selling female country trio SheDaisy, singer/songwriter and producer Randy Scruggs and all-around music legend Tony Joe White, who was the subject of a documentary at the fest.
Ramblin' Jack Elliott in town to play two shows and attend the premiere of a documentary about him made by his daughter was in the audience, and when patrons in the bar area began talking loudly during Clark's set, Elliott ran into the bar, armed with plenty of admonition: "You must listen! This is what it's all about!" exclaimed the 68-year-old legend. They shut up.
The Opry Celebrates 75
On Saturday night, the Grand Ole Opry kicked off the celebration of its 75th anniversary by unveiling its brand-new stage at the Grand Ole Opry House. The redesign of the Opry's barn set is the first in 22 years; the updated version features enhanced lighting and multiple video screens. The old set will be retired to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Sunday's official opening event was the City of Hope benefit softball game, with Milsap, who is blind, serving as umpire for a game that offered celebrity softballers such as Vince Gill and Deana Carter.
"Fun Fest 2000," at the Ryman Auditorium on Sunday night, was the annual showcase by IFCO the International Fan Club Organization which coordinates the many fan-club activities during the week. The show was hosted by Charlie Daniels, with special guest Carolyn Corlew. Artists performing at the Ryman were the Bellamy Brothers, John Berry, Paul Brandt, Lynn Anderson, David Ball, Jeff Carson, Eric Heatherly, Paul Overstreet, Michael Peterson, Blake Shelton, Sisters Wade, and Wild Horses.