NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When Eric Church saw video of Luke Bryan's nasty fall from the stage last week, his first thought was to reach out to his friend and make sure he was OK.
While everybody could chuckle afterward — it was the talk of Nashville during the CMT Awards and CMA Music Fest — Bryan's fall onto the metal security stanchion underscored the dangers involved with live performances.
"Luke's lucky he didn't break his neck," Church said. "... It's pretty nasty, the way he went into it. When you first see it, you're like, 'Oh, no, he might be really hurt there.' But then he pops up."
Bryan has good-naturedly answered questions from reporters and taken jokes from friends with a smile since his fall May 29 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jokers at CMT Awards rehearsals put caution tape and orange hazard cones near the edge of the stage, and he allowed himself to be wrapped in the yellow tape during the broadcast.
Bryan took some stitches in the fall and was a little gimpy maneuvering around town this week. He's one of the country music's most energetic performers, though, and the fall didn't slow him down. He performed twice at the CMTs, springboarding through a trapdoor in the stage floor several feet in the air on one song and walking the length of the arena on the second.
"You know, it's a job hazard," Bryan said. "You go do 100, 130 shows a year — different stages, different nuances. We all gather around and say a little prayer before we go onstage that we stay safe. What's always scary is about how much stuff is hanging above your head. There's a lot of little things that can happen."
Country stars convening in Nashville this week all had a mishap to relay. Most were humorous in hindsight, and a little scary at the time.
Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line took a spill while performing with Bryan last year, "and kinda cut my hands up. But nothing too bad. It's more of an ego hurt than anything else, and I am sure that's how it was for Luke, too."
Kiefer and Shawna Thompson of Thompson Square also had a few mishaps while performing with Bryan.
"I almost went over backwards on a monitor one night but I caught myself," Kiefer Thompson said. "Actually, that happened with Luke when we were coming back onstage, my boot caught the corner of the stage and I almost went over. Did the slow fall dance for about 20 yards, but I pulled up."
After listening to her husband, Shawna Thompson noticed a trend.
"Luke actually stepped on my foot one night when we were out performing with him," she said, "so there's something about Luke, I think."
"He's a little clumsy," Kiefer Thompson joked.
Carrie Underwood can stride around the stage in impossibly tall heels, but she learned you can't guard against a wardrobe malfunction when she wore a shirt tailored low in the back.
"And it was really long and flowy," Underwood said. "And I started stepping backward and I had on high-heel boots and I fell and just busted my butt. And it was two songs in. So for the rest of the show, I kept telling my bass player, 'I need a drink.' Because I was hurting really bad and I wanted to finish the show. But I had to go to the emergency room afterwards. Had to get one of the boot things to wear around for a while and I was on crutches."
Dave Haywood of Lady Antebellum recalled falling off the stage between two speakers. His hands were wrapped around his guitar, so he couldn't catch himself. After that, Haywood and fellow trio member Charles Kelley made sure the stage was well-marked when the group's third member, Hillary Scott, was pregnant.
"So we actually had little light-up things every couple of feet so you could tell," Kelley said. "Because after a song it goes pitch-black dark and it's like every man for himself trying to get back. We always run into each other."
Pitch-black conditions — and his trademark dark shades — led to Church's worst spill.
"The fall was bad enough that I ended up breaking the heel off my boot when I hit," Church said. "The first part was embarrassing and bad, but the second part, I had to finish the show with a heel missing. So you have an interesting walk the rest of the show."