The second annual Pilgrimage Festival kicked off on an early fall date that was way hotter than anyone would have ever expected. There was also some buzz about whether scheduling it the same week as Nashville’s annual Americana Festival was such a good idea. But, at the end of the day, neither issue seemed to matter much as the mature and well-behaved crowd survived the hot sun and surely did not regret the musical choice they made for the weekend.
My day began earlier than planned when my friend noticed a tweet from Sam Outlaw that he was a last minute substitute on the schedule and had just caught an Uber to Franklin. The young alt-country Californian played a set alternating between the sounds of Gram Parson and Buck Owens. Mixed in with his sharp original tunes were covers of songs by Clay Walker and Patty Loveless. Sam is definitely high on the list of new Americana artists to keep an ear out for.
Next up was local artist Trent Dabbs whose new LP, The Optimist is the best record of 2016 that you have not heard yet. Dabbs unfortunately played to a small crowd during the hottest part of the day and on a stage devoid of any shade. He was joined by The Silver Sea’s Daniel Tashian who both produced and co-wrote the new record. Dabbs’ great pop and rock sound easily made me forget about the heat for an hour.
Quirky 90s alternative rockers Violent Femmes began their set with their best known song and perhaps the theme song for the day, “Blister in the Sun.” The trio (plus several stragglers) looked about as old as their adoring and aging audience who seemed to know every word to their older tunes. With a few new ones thrown in, this was a surprisingly spirited and enjoyable set. The Milwaukeeans even gave us some gospel-bluegrass to enjoy in a fun-filled set that just flew by.
Cake is perhaps the most misunderstood band I have ever encountered. Since previously seeing them live, those oddball radio hits of theirs no longer were annoying. There’s a style and attitude that uniquely defines them, and their set today was stylish and refreshing. Too bad I had to leave early to secure my spot for the evening’s headliner. I urge you to give this band a chance if you have not already. I just love watching lead singer John McCrea play that simple vibraslap which is so signature to the Cake sound.
Has there ever been an artist as exciting and versatile as today’s headliner Beck? Playing a set heavy on the hits, with this guy you get rock, hip-hop and lush acoustic ballads in a high energy set that never loses its momentum. Way cool, to see great pop guitarist Jason Faulkner as his sideman. We even got two new songs, and the band intros during “Where It’s At” where each member toyed with a cover song were a blast. Hearing them fiddle with “1999” made me realize that there’s much in common between the talents of Beck and the late Prince.
The setting for Pilgrimage is perfect, and as far as festivals go, this well-planned and organized one is only destined to become more popular. This year’s estimated crowd of 12,000 (up from 10,000 last year) will be spreading the word I’m sure.
Kudos to the smart 8pm finish, but try to eliminate the time overlaps for the top performers. See you on Sunday!