October 23, 2000 12:00 PM

Amid the preshow backstage bustle at the 34th annual Country Music Association Awards Oct. 4, Dixie Chick Emily Robison leaned over to lanky crooner Dwight Yoakam and shrugged. “We’re not gonna win,” lamented Robison, resplendent in a gold Giorgio di Sant’Angelo vintage gown and tinted auburn hair. Later, as Yoakam opened the envelope naming the winner of the award for video of the year, a sly grin spread across his face. “You said you weren’t gonna win,” he teased. Bounding onstage, a breathless Robison exclaimed, “I’m glad I was wrong!”

Was she ever. The Chicks—Robison, 28, her sister Martie Seidel, 31, and four-months pregnant Natalie Maines, 26—captured the night’s biggest prizes, including best album, best vocal group, best music video and entertainer of the year. No less thrilled were Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry, who snagged the vocal duo award. “We’re going to be up all night tonight, I guarantee it,” a raucous Montgomery declared after the show. “Leave phone numbers, ’cause we’re going to need someone to get us out of jail!”

Partying a tad less hearty was 12-year-old platinum-selling singer Billy Gilman (“One Voice”), who arrived at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry on a trendy silver scooter and said he was dying to meet country siren Shania Twain: “She’s just really, really incredible.” Gilman wasn’t the only awestruck fan on hand. “It’s our all-star game,” crowed Toby Keith, who was nominated for video and single of the year. Still, compared to the Grammys, said ‘N Sync popster Lance Bass, an ardent country music fan, “the CMAs are definitely more laid-back and friendly. Here I actually feel at home.”

Which is exactly where country power couple Faith Hill (female vocalist of the year) and Tim McGraw (male vocalist of the year) were headed post-show—but not before a pit stop. “We’ve been wondering what burger joint will be open,” confided Hill, garbed in Gucci and Harry Winston diamonds. “It’s been a long show. It’s time to eat!”

Michelle Tauber

Cindy Dampier, Beverly Keel, Kate Klise and Kelly Williams in Nashville

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