This past weekend I attended Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival for the first time as the 27th festival that I’ve attended. I was blown away by the vibe that resides in the quaint Nashville-adjacent town of Franklin, Tennessee. This was my first trip to the Nashville area, and it did not disappoint at all. I purchased tickets for Pilgrimage earlier this year specifically to see The Black Keys as they were slated to play Shaky Knees, a festival I regularly attend, in 2020 but we all know how that went. The Black Keys put on an amazing show that Saturday night, but honestly the festival overall really stole my heart.
Pilgrimage was started by Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra after he came across The Park at Harlinsdale on a September morning run. The concept behind the festival was to curate a culture similar to that of the legendary New Orleans Jazz Fest but with the flavor of Nashville. The experience of the festival definitely lives up to this original vision, and you could tell that southern hospitality was the main focus for festival organizers. There were multiple misting tents around the festival grounds running all weekend and over 25 water stations meaning there were no lines for water. Vendor lines were fairly short to alleviate the worry about missing your favorite artist to catch a bite or grab some merch. Being family-friendly, you could bring in any type of backpack, strollers, wagons, and even low-back chairs. This was a night and day difference from all other music festivals I have attended as you usually have to limit what you bring with you. It felt so weird wearing a normal backpack at a festival, but it really aligned with the relaxed mindset that came with the Pilgrimage experience.
In total there were five stages. The Midnight Sun and Gold Record Road stages were the two main stages that had slight overlaps in artist time slots. Each of these stages had a huge lawn that was divided into the pit where it was standing room only and a large section for chairs and blankets where some people posted up for the weekend. The Shady Grove stage was tucked away in the corner and hosted some of Nashville’s best local artists. True to its name, the seating for this stage was completely shaded and a good spot to chill out. The Americana Music Triangle Experience stage had more intimate sets that focused on musical storytelling through the lens of blues and Americana. This stage was set up in a large tent filled with rows of wooden church pews for weary attendees to catch some great music. Lastly, the Lil Pilgrims Family Stage was dedicated to youth arts and music allowing local kid and teen acts to share the spotlight alongside signed talent.
Something very unique to Pilgrimage was the attitude of the artists while they performed. Many of the artists on the lineup call Nashville home, and those that don’t still have a general reverence towards the Music City. Every set had a casual feel like each artist had a home-field advantage as opposed to the exhaustion that can occur when touring. I feel like the shows I saw at Pilgrimage just hit differently compare to other times I’ve seen the same artists. This alone has me hooked on Pilgrimage, and I plan to make the journey back in 2022. I hope to see you there.