It was a festival in the sense that there were two days, four stages, and loads of bands. Other than that, Pilgrimage Music Festival was a weekend of downright southern hospitality. Fifteen thousand folks gathered on a two hundred and fifty acre farm located in the cutest little town in Tennessee. Franklin hosted its sophomore gathering on a beautiful, well-kept and manicured piece of land.
The brainchild of Better than Ezra front man (and Franklin resident) Kevin Griffin, this event was intended to be a place for families. As the original festival chasers began to age out of the over saturated festival market they could now have a place to come and enjoy a more laid back atmosphere in a fun filled environment. The plan was solid, the execution a little more difficult. After the expected loss of revenue from year on Griffin pulled another Franklin resident onboard to produce the event-Justin Timberlake.
Everything about this festival had a distinctly chill vibe. For once, I was not the only mom who brought a kid along. There were hundreds of small people dancing and playing and running around. For the wee ones, an entire section was dedicated, kiddy bands, crafts and games.
VIP goers had great viewing and excellent eating. Down home BBQ, greens and biscuits were served daily. There were photo booths and the requisite tents, upgraded restrooms and a cool off ac trailer.
There was huge a community and charity presence. This festival was all about giving back and shopping small. None of the usual 6 vendor tents here, there was an entire tent mall full of everything you never knew you needed. Also many of the vendors had a cause, their wares supporting everything from abused women, clean water, and youth arts to music programs.
As an added bonus the shows ended by 8pm every night. The party people had plenty of time to post game and the family folks were in bed on time. Bonus point for the best traffic direction ever, emptying the grounds in under twenty minutes, both nights.
While the line up was not stellar (year one included Steven Tyler, Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow) it was fun and certainly worth the $150 price tag for general admission. Clocking in $600 for VIP was still a savings.
Day one highlights included Wild Belle, Shakey Graves, Cake and (my personal fav of late) The Struts. Grace Potter rocked it then announced it would be their final show, as after years of touring the band needed a break. The Violent Femmes looked a hell of a lot older than they sounded, drawing the forties factor right back to their high school years, belting out all the goth kid 90’s angst anthems. The day one closer was Beck who performs solidly (year after year, venue after venue) and draws a sing along crowd of all ages. Day two was a little more country with sets by Kacey Musgraves and Jason Isbell. Better than Ezra pulled a good two dozen women from the crowd onstage providing them with back up dancers. The Arcs were amazing. Anderson East has a voice that could make grown women weep (especially if the spotted his gf Miranda Lambert dancing around the side stage). Preservation Hall Jazz Band is always a must see. The sweetest festival ever closed with local John Oates and Daryl Hall. An outstanding number of folks came to hear the 70’s and 80’s come back to town, even if it was a couple octaves lower than it used to be.
The entire festival felt like a big old family reunion or southern style block party. The only downside were the nearly three digit temps…and the fact that JT never made an appearance…