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Pilgrimage Music Festival Review

What a weekend! We made it home last night and got everything unpacked today. What a great time we had at the Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival in Franklin , Tennessee. There was incredible music, tasty food, and good friends. It doesn’t really get much better. I had been looking forward to this festival since the first day after Bonnaroo, and now its over and time for a review of the Pilgrimage Music Festival

Pilgrimage Music Festival Wristbands 2016

Friday – Settling in to Franklin

We arrived in Franklin Friday evening and got settled into our hotel room at the Drury.  First, we headed down to the hotel bar (the hotel we stayed at gives you 3 free drinks at 5:30 pm). After our drinks we headed next door to Granite City Brewing for dinner. I had the ribeye, and my wife had the Mediterranean Chicken.  Both meals were excellent, our drinks were great and we had the perfect raspberry sorbet for dessert ( this was a first for me).   After this wonderful dinner we headed back to the room for a little bit before hitting the pool and hot tub.  We called it an early night on Friday so we could be up early and get out to the festival.

Saturday – The sun…..

Saturday morning came quick.  We grabbed some hotel breakfast and hit the road.  Parking was painless and entry to the festival ( security and ticket scan) was a breeze.  First, we took a quick walk around to see what the Pilgrimage had brought to the Park at Harlinsdale Farm.  There were plenty of water stations and even a misting tent.  We visited the vendor area to check out some of the merchandise for sale before we decided to start finding a good spot for the music.

Pilgrimage Music Festival

It was HOT (90°+) and there wasn’t very much shade, but we found a spot under a small tree just in time for the Strumbellas.  They were fantastic and the crowd was into it. Seeing a small boy singing along to the song “Spirits” absolutely made my day!  I knew right then it was going to be good festival. Next up was Kaleo.  These guys from Iceland  played their hearts out and made a fan out of me. Violent Femmes was up next and this was a bucket list show for me.  My senior year of high school, their cassette did not leave my tape deck (does this make me old?). They played “Blister in the Sun”, “Add it Up”, and all of their best stuff!

Pilgrimage Music Festival 2016

After the Violent Femmes I decided to hop over to the Fender stage to catch the end of Shakey Graves’ set. I had not had the opportunity to see him live before, and all I can say is if you get a chance to see this guy, take it.  He is a remarkable entertainer.  I will be seeing him again when I can watch his entire show. After Shakey Graves played, we grabbed a bite to eat and caught the end of Grace Potter (she was amazing!) and got settled into our spot for the day’s headliner Beck!  We were able to get relatively close to the stage, and his show did not disappoint.  He played all of his hits and few of his other gems.  I had high expectations going in and he blew them away!

Pilgrimage Music Festival 2016 Tiny Beck

Sunday – It’s over already?

We got a late start Sunday, but we arrived just in time to see Better than Ezra lay down a killer set that had me longing for the 90’s.  We found another tiny shady spot and settled in for City and Colour. After they played I ran into my only major schedule conflict of the weekend.  Langhorne Slim, Margo Price, and Kacey Musgraves were all playing at the same time on different stages.  I let the heat make the decision for me.

Pilgrimage Music Festival Fender Stage

We had scored a shaded spot so we stayed put and watched Kacey Musgraves.  She put on a great set with a mix of her best songs and some great covers.  My favorite was her cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”. After Kacey, Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit were up, and man did they bring it! He moved easily between his folksy tunes and rocking the crowd.  He and his wife Amanda Shires have the best chemistry and play so well together.  Listening to “Cover Me Up” as the sun sunk below the trees was probably the highlight of the festival for me!

Pilgrimage 2016 Sunset


We closed out the night listening to Hall & Oates on the main stage.  While not really something I normally listen to, these guys are solid performers.  The crowd was into it and folks were dancing everywhere. I had a great time at their set, and will probably throw a few of their songs on a playlist for later.  Unfortunately the end of their show brought the end of the festival.  How could it be over so fast?  I just wanted to sit in that field all night and listen to more music, but all good things must come to an end right?

Positives – It was a good time

  • First, This festival is incredibly laid back and family friendly. I would not hesitate to bring a kid here (with proper sun protection).
  • Second, These folks have their festival logistics figured out.  It was easy to find a parking place, entry into the festival itself was super quick, and everything was spaced out pretty well.  Leaving was the same way.
  • The lineup has been incredible both years.  The inclusion of local artists is huge for me, and the headliners they book are amazing.
  • Kevin Griffin was in the crowd all weekend making sure things were going well, this shows his commitment to making this festival a part of Middle Tennessee for a long time

Negatives – Nothing is Perfect

While it was a great festival, no Pilgrimage Music Festival review would be complete without mentioning some of the things we would like to see going forward.

  • First, is the lack of shade.  Even though the festival is held in the fall, the weather this time of year is unpredictable.  The heat made getting around the festival difficult.  Maybe they could add a few shade tents in the back of the fields of the bigger stages.
  • Second, and this is more of a wish than a criticism, I would also love to see them add screens to the main stages. The only shade we could find either day was a good distance from the stage and it made it difficult to see.

Pilgrimage Music Festival Review Final Words

The Pilgrimage Music Festival is here to stay. Kevin Griffin and his crew have done an outstanding job.  The addition of Justin Timberlake to the production team will only make this thing better. There are so many things to love about this festival and I can’t wait to see what next year brings. It is growing into one of the best festivals in Tennessee.

We hope you have enjoyed our review of the Pilgrimage Music Festival.  Tell us about your experience in the comments.  Who were your favorite acts?  What would you like to see change?

Pilgrimage Music and Arts Festival Franklin Tennessee

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