Well, Pilgrimage 2017 has come and gone. If you were there you saw some incredible shows, and you are probably already looking forward to next year’s lineup release. If you weren’t there we will do our best to fill you in on the sights and sounds of the Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival 2017. This post may contain affiliate links.
Make the Pilgrimage 2017
Held at the Park at Harlinsdale farm in Franklin Tennessee on September 23rd and 24th, the Pilgrimage was heading into its 3rd year with a stacked lineup. The list of performers featured artists from across genres including everything from legends like Mavis Staples, and up and coming local artists like Colony House. I was most excited to see Eddie Vedder and The Avett Brothers, but the entire line up was solid. Having attended both previous years, my expectations for this festival were high, and for the most part it lived up to them. There were a few issues that I think could use some work (this is true of every festival I have been to), but overall I think the Pilgrimage was a great festival!
Saturday did not get off to a great start (more on that later), but turned around quickly. We got inside around 3 pm and grabbed a little food from Puckett’s food stand. We watched a little bit of Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue before making our way to the Gold Record Road Stage to see Gary Clark Jr. His heavy blues licks were the perfect music for the weather. Despite being the end of September, temperatures were still hovering around 90, and shade was scarce.
The Avett Brothers were up next. They played an energetic set as the sun was dropping lower in the sky and absolutely nailed it. They mixed their hits from across their catalog and put together an impressive setlist! If the rest of the weekend was going to shape up like this show we were in for a treat.
We finished the evening by catching some of megastar, Justin Timberlake. Normally I would not attend a Timberlake concert. He is a talented performer, but I really just don’t like his genre of music. That is one of my favorite things about festivals; you get to see artists that aren’t in your regular choices. Sometimes you get pleasantly surprised, and Timberlake did just that. His show was energetic, fun, and highly entertaining! He even had Pilgrimage veterans Chris Stapleton and his wife Morgane come out and join him for “Tennessee Whiskey“, “Fire Away“, and “Sometimes I Cry“!
Sunday brought even more excitement. We had no trouble at all entering the festival, and were inside the gates and set up for our first show of the day by a little after 1:00 pm. We watched a little bit of Langhorne Slim‘s show before we headed to the Harpeth River Stage to get a good spot for Amanda Shires. While we waited we watched Band of Heathens put on an incredible show! I hadn’t really listened to them before, but I will be changing that. As they wrapped up their set and Amanda Shires’ crew started loading in their equipment I saw that her husband Jason Isbell was on stage with them. I knew we were in for something special!
After an incredible set by Amanda Shires, we grabbed some food and made our way back to the Gold Record Road Stage for Fitz and The Tantrums. We stayed put for the next show, Ryan Adams. While I am not familiar with much of his work, he put on a good show.
We cut out of Ryan Adams a little bit early to grab drinks before Eddie Vedder shut down the weekend at the main stage. Booking Eddie Vedder to close Pilgrimage 2017 was no mistake. His entire set was incredible. He played Pearl Jam songs, and some of his solo stuff as well. It was awesome to finally hear stuff from the Into The Wild Soundtrack live. Another highlight of his set was when he brought out a kid, Jack West, that he had met earlier in the day to perform “Society” with him. All in all, it was the perfect way to wrap up an incredible weekend.
Five Best Things!
Pilgrimage 2017 had a lot to offer. The music, the food, and the art combined to make for an awesome festival. My 5 favorite things at the Pilgrimage this year were:
- Eddie Vedder’s Closing Set – This was my favorite set of the weekend! I was blown away.
- Amish Baking Co – My favorite food vendor from Bonnaroo made an appearance! If you have never tried an Amish Donut, you are missing out
- Expanded Food Truck Area – The Farm to Turntable food truck area was great. Previously the food trucks were located on a road beside one of the stages and it made it kind of difficult to navigate. The new location was awesome.
- Special Guests! – Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Jack West, and Matt Cameron all helped to make this festival a little more special
- Shady Grove – This great little stage offered a nice getaway from the heat and allowed us to catch some great local artists.
These highlights made Pilgrimage 2017 one of my favorite festivals yet! I can’t wait to see what they have planned for next year.
The Other Stuff
The Pilgrimage made a lot of improvements this year. They expanded the shade in the areas around the food vendors, moved the food trucks to a location that doesn’t interfere with any of the stages but is still convenient, and expanded the number of food and drink stands. There are some things I would like to see them improve on though.
- Traffic – 2017 brought an increase in ticket sales (nearly double that of 2016). Naturally that means more people are going to attend, but they did not seem prepared for the increase in traffic. In previous years we had been able to make it into the festival with minimal delays. On Saturday this year we had to wait for nearly 3 hours in traffic to get in. However on Sunday we did not encounter much traffic at all. I haven’t seen day by day attendance numbers, but Sunday felt way less crowded too.
- Shade – The weather in late September can be pretty rough. The past 2 years temperatures have been near 90. While they did a good job of creating shaded places near the food vendors, and a few other small places, I would love it if they could add a few shaded viewing areas at the stages.
- Water – The Pilgrimage allows you to bring in a container to fill with water at one of their many water stations. The problem with that is I was only able to find 2 water stations of the 37 that were on site, and on Saturday the line to fill up was over an hour deep almost all day. I was unable to use the water fill stations on Saturday at all and ended up buying bottled water from vendors instead. It would be nice if they could increase the number of watering stations or maybe add some signage that made it easy to find them in the crowds.
The Pilgrimage is a young festival with a committed group of organizers. While they encountered some growing pains with Pilgrimage 2017, they have made improvements every year and I am sure they will continue to make this one of the best festivals in Tennessee. The artists they select for the line up are always excellent, and I look forward to what ever they have in store for us next year.