(This story appeared Saturday, June 13 on TuneInMusicCity.com)
So many aspects of CMA Music Festival involve hybrids.
For the fans, the week is both a vacation and a chance to celebrate their favorite music and artists. For the artists, the fan interaction merges with the opportunity to get exposed to a wider audience.
So when an event within CMA Fest can serve two purposes – late-night fan party and worthwhile cause benefit – even better.
Friday night’s Jason Aldean-headlined show at the Wildhorse Saloon featured the requisite special guests, as hitmakers Luke Bryan and Jake Owen brought the party straight over from LP Field to play short sets after newcomer Ashley Ray opened the show.
But the true stars of the night were the breast cancer patients and survivors supported by the Susan G. Komen For The Cure organization, the event’s beneficiaries. Having such an event tied in with country music’s biggest party is a natural for an organization that celebrates cancer survival alongside early detection and education.
“Country music has such a universal message and the fan base is so broad, it really helps us reach every element of the fan base with our message,” said Tracy Rode, president of the Greater Nashville affiliate of the Komen organization. “There’s so much work to be done to cure breast cancer, but everyone’s involvement can really make a difference.”
Aldean, who was whisked from his prime-time slot at the stadium to the Wildhorse, said the loss of the wife of one of his best friends to breast cancer at age 29 got him involved with the organization, and that the multi-purpose event suits him well.
“It’s something we started doing back in 2005 and it’s gotten a little bigger and better every year. It’s a really serious disease, but at the same time we have a lot of fun with the show,” Aldean said. “It’s not all about the sad side of breast cancer. There are so many people who are survivors of it, and the other thing is that affects both men and women, which is something not everybody realizes.”
“CMT Top 20 Countdown” host Lance Smith served as emcee for the event, and even amidst the hectic pace of the week, noted that this event was a personal highlight. “I get asked to do a lot of events because I’m that four-letter word – host – but really it’s just about friendships and relationships,” Smith said. “Then you look at what it’s for, and everyone’s been affected by cancer, directly or indirectly. When you see benefits like this, it’s easy to say yes, regardless of who you know.”