Hope you’re coming to this Monday with fond memories of a great weekend. If you’re a fellow music-loving Nashvillian, that might have involved a little trip down to Franklin, TN, home of the inaugural Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival. I had a chance to volunteer at the event and attend at least part of it (more on that later), so I figured I’d share a little of my experience.
Pilgrimage first appeared on my radar thanks to a carefully-curated Facebook ad. I’m an avid Iron & Wine fan, but they hardly ever tour in the U.S. While I was in South Africa this summer, I found out they were—not more than half an hour from my Nashville home. Intrigued, I looked at the lineup—and was instantly sold—Trampled By Turtles, Willie Nelson, The Decemberists, and Band of Horses? I was sold.
Tickets for the two day event, which were $92 for a day pass and $172 for the weekend, were pretty reasonable. If you split the price up among even four or five of the artists playing and compare that to the price of an individual concert ticket, the savings were apparent. Still, my college-saving self was trying to find a way to save some money, which is when I found out that I could work the festival and get in fo free!!!!
Working the festival, as I found out, was a deal and a half. I volunteered for the set-up team on Friday, which I expected to involve a lot of manual labor, but really was a fun arts and crafts day. I got to paint this awesome sign which served as a photo backdrop for all the artists at the festival (you’re welcome, guys.)
After my day, I was all geared up with a wristband and parking passes to boot. I headed to Day 1 with all the festival essentials in hand: a backpack, hammock, blanket, water, and the most hipster apparel possible. One cannot attend a music festival in Franklin without dressing accordingly.
Let me tell you a little something about Franklin: it’s the South at its finest. It’s ranked as one of the top places to visit in Tennessee, and it’s no wonder: with it’s rustic downtown location made modern by a variety of up-and-coming restaurants and boutiques, it’s just the place for someone who loves the quaintness of the South with a fresh twist.
The Park at Harlinsdale is just a few minutes outside of town, and was the perfect venue for this festival. This former walking-horse farm is now a favorite spot for Franklin residents to enjoy a variety of events or just walking around the grounds. The white picket fences and rolling pastures against a clear-blue sky just hinted at the fun to come.
Food, Bazaar, and Other Fun Stuff
We Nashvillians care as much about our food as we do our music, which is why Pilgrimage’s offerings did not disappoint. Edley’s BBQ, Puckett’s, Burger Republic, Chuy’s, and Frothy Monkey were just a few Nashville/Franklin favorites to make an appearance. Food trucks and tents were aplenty at all three stages, so it was easy to pick up a quick bite in the midst of walking around the grounds.
Local and artisan crafts are also a big part of the culture here, which is why the Bazaar was such a pleasing offering. A variety of local artists offered vintage clothing, custom jewelry, curated art pieces and prints, and more. A few custom Pilgrimage pieces were also available for silent auction, with a portion of the proceed going to charity partners like MusiCares.
And now, my favorite part of the festival: Shady Groves. For the weary pilgrim, this whimsically decorated area was a place of respite. Colorful paper garlands were strung from trees, and hammocks for a quick snooze were aplenty. It was a perfect spot to take a break, especially after standing for your favorite artists for hours on end.
Pilgrimage did not disappoint with its lineup: the folksy, down-home sound of most of the artists went right with the atmosphere of Harlinsdale Farm. Three different stages helped to reduce traffic flow and offer something for everyone. On Saturday, I caught Trampled By Turtles, Iron and Wine, The Punch Brothers, Sheryl Crow, Cage the Elephant, and Weezer.
Iron & Wine deserves a mention of its own, because WOW. I literally could have just seen their set and been satisfied with life. Although I typically associate I&W with somber, deep music (perfect for fall!) Sam and the team gave an upbeat feel to some old favorites, keeping with the fun and lighthearted atmosphere. He’s got a personality that commands attention without demanding it, and can we talk about the facial hair situation? Flawless.
Another favorite that I didn’t expect: Weezer. The rock band seemed a little out of place with some of the more folk-oriented artists (although Cage and Steven Tyler also fit that bill) but they were a great selection to get the crowd going, even in the midst of a downpour.
On that note, the downpour. Intermittent rain was predicted for the festival, but it didn’t seem to bother most festival-goers until around 5:45. That’s when the heavens opened, the water poured, and some people who wanted to avoid pneumonia (myself included) decided it was time to head out (sorry, Wilco!) Drenched but happy, I headed home to get some rest from a busy day.
Even though I had a two-day pass, I ended up not going on Sunday, just because I ended up having a lot of work to do (although Band of Horses and The Decemberists were incredibly tempting). I heard from a few friends that it went well though, and I’m happy the weather cooperated this time.
All in all, the first Pilgrimage Festival was a great experience, especially for a festival newbie like me. Folksy, family-friendly, and fun, it was a great celebration of music and culture in an area where those things thrive. Here’s to hoping that Pilgrimage will make an even bigger impression next year!