Luke Bryan’s Unexpected Absence Turns Into Lainey Wilson’s Triumphant Festival Headlining Debut

Wilson said her performance in front of 22,000+ fans was “one to remember.”


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

August 9, 2023


3:59 pm

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Lainey Wilson; Photo by Tara Diiorio, Courtesy Lainey Wilson Instagram

Over the weekend, Lainey Wilson delivered her first-ever headlining festival set after filling in for Luke Bryan at the 11th-annual Watershed Music and Camping Festival.

Bryan, unfortunately, had to pull out from his headlining slot due to illness, leaving Wilson to fill his shoes for the night. The female songstress closed out the three-day event as she took the stage on Sunday, August 6, and unleashed her signature Bell Bottom Country flare in front of approximately 22,000 fans. 

On Sunday afternoon (Aug. 6), Bryan took to social media to share the unfortunate news with fans.

“This is such a frustrating weekend. ‘Shedders, I am sorry to let you down but I am not back singing – can hardly even talk still,” Bryan shared. “This festival is one of the most beautiful places we perform and one of the most fun crowds always.” 

“I know my friends on the show will bring a great time for you! Show them all what you got. Love ya, Luke!” Bryan’s statement concluded.

The update came after the American Idol judge was advised by a doctor to cancel his Country On Tour date in Boise and suddenly postpone his concert at USANA Amphitheatre in Salt Lake City, Utah as well. 

@traeanniata @Lainey Wilson you are a class act. Get better @LukeBryan, your headlining spot was left in great hands! @Watershed Festival #watershed2023 #lukebryan #laineywilson #countrymusic ♬ original sound – TraeAnn Iata

Even though Bryan couldn’t make it to the Watershed stage, Wilson paid homage to the “Country On” singer by delivering several of his fan-favorites including “Drink a Beer,” “Drunk on You,” “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day,” and “Country Girl.”

In days following the event, Wilson took to Instagram to commemorate the milestone performance with a sentimental message inspired by words of wisdom from her father. 

“My deddy always told me to grab the reins and hold on tight when life gets crazy and that’s just what we did Sunday night. @lukebryan we missed ya out there…get to feeling better❤️,” she wrote before showing gratitude for all those who attended her set at the festival.  “Thank you @watershedfestival for making my first headlining festival set one to remember.🤘🏻”

The rest of the weekend at The Gorge in George, WA featured a star-studded lineup of country artists including Cody Johnson, Keith Urban, Carly Pearce, Kameron Marlowe, and Parker McCollum, Conner Smith, Travis Denning, Avery Anna, Ernest and more. 

Luke Bryan is expected to continue on with his current Country On Tour on August 10 in Rogers, AR followed by a return to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on August 12. In addition, the country superstar has been teasing a new song called “Southern and Slow” that he will be dropping this Friday.

Among all the fans’ excitement, Bryan’s mom, LeClaire also took to the comment section to share her anticipation for the catchy tune. 

“So excited for this. Love the train crossing. Beautiful,” she wrote referring to the stunning image shared alongside a tease of the song. 

Later this year, Bryan will also embark on his annual Farm Tour and deliver show-stopping performances for the remainder of his Las Vegas residency.

As for Lainey Wilson, the “Heart Like A Truck” singer recently wrapped up her time on the road in support of Luke Combs’ massive World Tour and now she is gearing up to join Eric Church for select dates of his The Outsiders Revival Tour. 

Lainey Wilson; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Lainey Wilson; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Wilson will also join HARDY for the second leg of his the mockingbird & THE CROW tour, presented by Ebay Motors. This trek kicks off on August 31 in Knoxville, Tennessee at Knoxville Civic Coliseum and will come to a close on December 9. 

“It’s about dang time HARDY and I toured together again! It’s gonna be WILD with all these rednecks together,” Wilson wrote on Instagram at the time of the tour announcement.

For more information on Lainey Wilson’s music and upcoming tour dates, visit her official website HERE.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.