New artist winners performing free shows

All together now: "You know I like my chicken fried, cold beer on a Friday night ..."

Just remember the Zac Brown Band plays Saturday night, and those plastic footballs full of brew tend to warm up if you don't slurp fast.

The Academy of Country Music features its new artist winners in free shows today and Saturday on the outdoor stages of the Fremont Street Experience. Julianne Hough and Jake Owen play today. A public vote will choose which of the three win Top New Artist at Sunday's ACM Awards.

Owen and Hough have hits, too, but nothing as ubiquitous as the Zac Brown Band's "Chicken Fried," which seemed to anticipate recession belt-tightening in its celebration of the simple things.

"It's always been our most requested song," says singer-bassist John Driskell Hopkins. The song originally was released four years ago, but the familiar version was rerecorded for last year's breakthrough album, "The Foundation."

"It's been waiting to be on the radio since its inception," Hopkins figures, even if "we didn't really plan for that release to happen based on any worldly news."

A quick guide to the weekend's ACM-related happenings:

• Fremont Street Experience: Free outdoor concerts today with Matt Stillwell, 6:45 p.m. 1st Street Stage; Julianne Hough, 7:45 p.m. 3rd Street Stage; Jake Owen, 9 p.m. (1st Street) and Jason Aldean, 10:30 p.m. (3rd Street).

Saturday: Glorianna, 6:45 p.m. 1st Street Stage; Zac Brown Band, 7:40 p.m. 3rd Street Stage; Kellie Pickler, 9:20 p.m. (1st Street) and LeAnn Rimes, 10:45 p.m. (3rd Street).

• "Academy of Country Music Awards." Sunday's ceremonies in the MGM Grand Garden are sold out, but if you already have tickets, remember they start at 5 p.m. for broadcast live on the East Coast. However, if you're watching at home in Las Vegas, they are tape-delayed on KLAS-TV, Channel 8 at 8 p.m.

• "Artist of the Decade Special Honoring George Strait." Tickets remained earlier this week for the all-star tribute at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the MGM Grand Garden. The show airs May 27.