Country music fans are flooding downtown Nashville where water flowed about a month ago.
The CMA Music Fest is always an important event for the city, but especially this year, since flooding that began May 1 caused more than $2 billion in damage.
"I think everybody is really conscious about the flood relief and stuff like that that's going on," Carrie Underwood said. "There's a lot of charity events this week for flood relief. It's just really cool, too. The show must go on, to get out and do our thing."
Underwood performed on Music Fest's opening night Thursday at LP Field, one of the many structures that suffered extensive flood damage. There will be concerts there every night through the festival's closing on Sunday.
"This year I just think it's so much more important," Miranda Lambert said. "It's everybody coming together in a city that really needs support right now, and it's people that all have one thing in common, which is country music and the love of country music."
Lambert was scheduled to perform at LP Field on Friday night.
Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, a native of Nashville, acknowledged how much effort it took to pull off this massive event.
"The artists like us, we owe everybody with the CMA, every volunteer, everyone who has worked so hard to get the facilities back to a point where they could hold people and the show could go on," she said. "It's been a lot of work. We're thankful, because that's a way for a lot of money to be pumped back into the city. And it's one of the most fun weekends of the year in Nashville."
Her band performed a number of their hits Thursday night, including "Need You Now," "American Honey" and "I Run to You."
Tim McGraw couldn't wait to perform Thursday night.
"I've been on tour all summer, but this is the first time I've played at the new Fan Fair site, the CMA Fest. I still call it Fan Fair," he said, smiling.
"But it's the first time I've played in this setting in a long, long time. I can't remember the last time, so I'm excited about it."
After all, stadium gigs are what many artists only dream about. Lady Antebellum guitarist Dave Haywood agreed.
"It's the top of the top," he said. "We played some last year with Kenny Chesney, but the energy here, when everyone comes from around the country and the world for these shows. ... There's nothing like it."
"Most of us don't know what it's like to go out and play in a stadium other than Chesney," said Jason Aldean. "So for us it's exciting to go out and play in front of that many people, and you know that every single person in that crowd is a country music fan. You know they are or they wouldn't be here this week. For me that's the coolest part about it."
Fans are a priority for artists this week, but that's not all.
"The other important side of this festival is obviously the flood, and the fact that we're able to go and show that we've risen from this as a city by having this festival," said Brad Paisley, who lost many of his guitars and other touring gear stored at Soundcheck, a popular storage and rehearsal space that was submerged.
"I know the importance of that myself, having had to go back out there and do shows with all new guitars and a crew that's very tired. This town is ready, and it's excited about the prospect of having something like this happen this quickly and be a success."