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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Lainey Wilson proves ‘Country’s Cool Again’ on tour opening night

Country star Lainey Wilson came to Nashville for the first stop on her “Country’s Cool Again” national tour with an impressive testament to her musical prowess.
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Savannah Walske
Lainey Wilson puts up a rock and roll hand pose onstage at Ascend Ampitheater, as photographed on June 1, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Savannah Walske)

When I first decided to attend Vanderbilt, I knew, like many of my peers not from the South, I would be entering a new environment. One part of this foreign world felt particularly intimidating — a music genre I had always treated with perhaps unfair judgment due to my music tastes: country. 

Upon arrival on campus, I waited for the day I would attend a country concert and become an undying country music fan, as I had heard happened to many other non-Southern Vanderbilt students. Alas, before I knew it, an entire academic year had passed, and I had yet to see any live country performances. Little did I know that I would soon witness new star Lainey Wilson’s touchdown in Music City for the opening night of her “Country’s Cool Again” national tour and gain a new understanding of country music’s popularity.

Wilson came to Nashville on the heels of her most successful year in the industry. An aspiring country music star since the age of 9, she first picked up traction when her songs were included in the hit TV show “Yellowstone” in 2019. Today, she is recognized by fans and critics alike, receiving the Best Country Album award at the Grammys in February and many other distinguished accolades from the Association of Country Music and the Country Music Awards in the first few months of 2024. Two weeks before her opening night in Nashville, Wilson was invited to the exclusive Grand Ole Opry, a testament to her significance as a country music artist. She will soon join the 59 current solo artist members, including Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood and Reba McEntire.

All this considered, Wilson’s arrival in Music City was highly anticipated. Fans of all ages flocked to Ascend Amphitheater adorned in bell bottoms, leather fringe and feathered cowboy hats — an outfit analogous to Wilson’s music. I knew her show would have to start with a bang, which openers Zach Top and Ian Munsick thoroughly accomplished.

Top and his band opened the show with classic country tunes, orienting the crowd for the rest of the night with the likes of “Bad Luck.” After a few songs, Top departed and introduced Munsick as the next act. He strode onto the stage in front of his band with a grin and guitar in hand.

While Top grounded the crowd in the night’s genre, Munsick brought the energy. At one point he stomped along the edge of the stage while rapidly strumming his guitar. Munsick introduced his song “Cowboy Killer” by seeking out cowgirls in the audience.

“We have any cowgirls here tonight? How about cowboy killers?” Munsick said.

After half an hour of fun and lively country, Munsick expressed his respect for Wilson and his excitement about the tour before departing. He was met with thunderous cheers and applause. 

Following the two openers, I had a new appreciation for country music, and my anticipation for the main act grew. It crescendoed when the recorded music stopped, the stage lights dimmed and the audience fell to a whisper. An old-fashioned red truck suddenly revealed itself. On top of it stood Wilson belting her brand new single, “Hang Tight Honey,” under a fierce spotlight. She rocked a red bell-bottom jumpsuit and a denim vest that has become the stylistic image for her career thanks to the success of her 2022 album “Bell Bottom Country.”

Wilson confidently continued into hits from her previous two albums, “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’” and “Bell Bottom Country.” Her vocals shone alongside her talented band, with the guitarist hitting several impressive riffs. The red truck onstage was incorporated into the performance in several ways. At one point, Wilson sentimentally sang “Heart Like a Truck” while in the driver’s seat.

Following her song “Atta Girl,” a feminist power ballad, she invited a fan into the pit to become the “Cowgirl of the Night” in a sentimental moment. While tears streamed down the fan’s face, Wilson asked her to repeat phrases of empowerment before Wilson crowned her with a unique cowboy hat. 

“Say, ‘I am beautiful! I am smart! I am talented! I’m godly! And I’m cowgirl of the night!” Wilson said. 

The audience applauded and cheered. This act of kindness fully convinced me of Wilson’s authentic love for and kindred spirit with her fanbase.

Shortly after, Wilson prompted fans to shine their flashlights while singing her song “Watermelon Moonshine.”

The amphitheater was a beacon of light, with nearly every other person holding their flashlights to the sky in a beautiful moment of unity and peace.

Although Wilson temporarily exited the stage after performing the tour’s title track, “Country’s Cool Again,” she returned to perform four more songs. The solo performance lacked the flashiness of earlier in the night. At this time, she introduced “4x4xYou,” a song on her unreleased album “Whirlwind.” She closed with “Wildflowers and Wild Horses” as a storm was visualized on the screen behind her. 

Wilson ended the night with a bow, wrapping up an impressive start to her national tour and showing Nashville why some consider her to be one of the best country musicians of this generation. Although I left the venue still uncertain about the country music genre, I was sure of my appreciation for Lainey Wilson as both a musician and a person. I pushed myself to expand my appreciation of music by attending this concert and without Wilson’s unforgettable and far-reaching performance, this undoubtedly would not have happened.

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About the Contributor
Savannah Walske
Savannah Walske, Staff Photographer
Savannah Walske (‘26) is from San Francisco and is double majoring in psychology and Spanish in the College of Arts and Science. When not shooting for The Hustler, you can find her playing guitar, photographing pretty Californian landscapes and obsessing over her dog. You can contact her at [email protected].
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