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WE Fest Saturday night: Festival wraps up 36th year with Aldean, Young

Jason Aldean held the WE Fest crowd enthralled throughout his 90-minute set Saturday night, which closed out the 2018 festival in rockin' fashion. (Photo courtesy of Townsquare Media)1 / 2
Singer-songwriter Chris Young was surprised during his Saturday night set at WE Fest when a couple in the audience got engaged while he was performing his hit single, "You." (Photo courtesy of Townsquare Media)2 / 2

The WE Fest crowd was ready to have a good time on the final day of the 2018 festival, as evidenced by all the dancing, singing and cheering going on during the performances of Josh Turner, Chris Young and Jason Aldean.

And the performers joined in on the fun — Aldean even chugging a beer toward the end of his 90-minute set, which closed out the 36th annual WE Fest in style.

After "Gettin' Warmed Up" as he took the stage, Aldean invited the crowd to "Take A Little Ride" with him, then ran through "They Don't Know," "A Little More Summertime" and "Any Ol' Barstool" in quick succession before declaring that the festival finally seemed to be "waking up."

He then asked the crowd, "Everybody feeling alright?" before chiding them that they had no reason to be tired just yet.

"No yawnin' — just keep drinkin'," he joked.

Aldean also noted that he would be doing songs from all of his albums, which "might take awhile." And the festival's final headliner delivered on that promise, rocking and crooning his way through a 22-song set list that lasted well past the midnight hour, including crowd favorites like "Dirt Road Anthem," "Big Green Tractor," "Amarillo Sky" and "Hicktown" as well as his latest single, "Drown the Whiskey" — teasing the crowd with a hint that he might have run into his duet partner, MIranda Lambert, backstage before noting sheepishly that he was just kidding.

Forgoing a long-standing concert tradition of finishing his performance with a two or three-song encore, Aldean said he and his band would "just keep playing all we have for you, then call it a night." The crowd roared its approval.

Before rocking his way through "My Kind of Party," Aldean lifted a glass in toast to the crowd and joked that he hated to see anybody drinking alone — "so we decided to join you."

He finished the night with "She's Country," "Burnin' It Down" and "Crazy Town," as the audience danced and sang along.

Earlier in the evening, Chris Young and his deep, soulful vocals held the crowd's attention through a 17-song set that started out with the sexy, seductive "Losing Sleep" and "Gettin' You Home," then progressed through the more introspective "Voices" and "Who I Am With You" to his latest single, "Hangin' On," which he joyfully noted was "about to be in the top 20, thanks to you."

Young then joked that his next song would most likely be one that the WE Fest crowd couldn't relate to at all before launching into "Sober Saturday Night," which he said was a special song to him because he'd had the honor of performing it with one of his personal music idols, Vince Gill.

"I don't play guitar anything like him," Young said, adding that he was thrilled when Gill agreed to both play guitar and sing on the track, which went on to become a No. 1 hit.

Though Young has performed at WE Fest before, he did mark at least one "first-time" event at this year's event: While he was performing the song, "You," a man in the crowd proposed to his girlfriend.

"Did you just get engaged during this song?" Young asked the couple, who nodded. "Congratulations, you guys!"

Other songs featured in Young's set included a cover of Keith Whitley's "When You Say Nothing At All," which he dedicated to his parents, and the crowd-pleasers "Save Water, Drink Beer" and "Aw Naw."

Before Young took the stage, Josh Turner, The Cadillac Three and Ashley McBryde also performed for the WE Fest crowd. Those who held VIP or reserved seats for the 2018 festival can already renew their tickets for the 37th annual festival, which takes place Aug. 1-3, 2019. Chris Stapleton was announced Friday as its first headliner. For information on tickets and updates on which performers will join Stapleton on the Soo Pass stage next summer, visit www.wefest.com.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454