Wow! Like it was last year, the third annual Pilgrimage Festival was a grueling experience. Despite the start of the fall season, it was a torridly hot day in the high 80s with a blaring sun that saw little if any cloud cover. It was a day to take it slow, find shade and stay hydrated.
While there is no one to blame for the heat, we can blame the uber-popular headliner and show co-producer Justin Timberlake for the day’s other problem—an oversized crowd that at times was a bit much to bear. But, nonetheless, it was still two thumbs up for a great festival that featured a ton of great music and plenty of great food.
First up for me was the band everyone told me not to miss: the power trio plus a harmonica local band known as Blackfoot Gypsies. Their early morning set fondly recalled the sounds of Humble Pie and young lead singer Matthew Paige is a bonafide rock star.
Already, needing for a break from the heat, I took a short respite in the Americana Music Triangle Experience tent to hear an interview session with two legends from the Muscle Shoals session band The Swampers: David Hood and Jimmy Johnson. After hearing them talk, I just couldn’t wait to get home and listen to them play on Wilson’s Pickett’s “Hey Jude.” This tent was a great feature that I’d love to see expanded next year.
Winner of the day’s band whose music I want to buy after hearing their set was Nashville’s Sinclair. It was also great to watch Megan McCormick add some solid guitar to their great pop sound.
Next were some quick stops that the mid-day heat simply made it hard for me to sustain for very long:
Nashville singer-songwriter Ruby Amanfu who was backed by instrumental duo Steelism.
Miss Nikki Lane who I knew would get the Festival’s best dressed award for her chic Americana look.
Exciting Americana duo Shovels & Rope who were giving it all at the main stage.
High-profile Canadian cowboy-style singer Colter Wall who attracted a big afternoon crowd.
After having about as much hot weather as I could stand, I went for some cover at Shady Grove stage where I sat in a chair under the trees to catch fabulous sets by local artists Angaleena Presley and Aaron Lee Tasjan. Presley sounded strong and confident fronting a full band, and Tasjan’s closing clover of Todd Snider’s “Hey Pretty Boy (Go Back to Franklin)” may have been my fave moment of this first day on the Farm.
Without moving very far, I took my chair to a position about 1/4 mile away from the stage where the festival-friendly Avett Brothers were turning in their usual great balanced set. It was remarkable how great things sounded from such a distant vantage point. My venture up close to snap some pix was met with a noisy crowd so I went back to my original station to comfortably listen.
It was then 7pm and time for Justin Timberlake, an artist whose music I knew absolutely nothing about. The incredible sea of humanity had me so far from the stage that I actually never saw it. Listening along and watching on the two giant screens, I can’t say now that I’m a fan, although the love for him, even from the Americana folks, was overflowing. The guesting of Chris Stapleton was nice, but I suspect that three songs with him were more than the hard-core JT fans wanted, since they were only getting 90 minutes of him to begin with.
PS The line for the Grilled Cheeserie truck was always too long, but the tacos from Chuy’s were a great quick grab!