Watching the weather during the week gave great promise that this year’s fourth annual Pilgrimage Festival would not be as brutally hot as the past two years had been. It wasn’t until late in the week that the talk of any rain crept into the forecast.
Little did anyone suspect that this threat of a wet day would lead to weather so severe that the day would unfortunately be cancelled early. There would be no music from Jack White, Lionel Richie or Hozier. At 4:30 pm we were all instructed to evacuate the site for safety when lightning started to lurk in the distance. Our pleasant morning and afternoon of music was suddenly and swiftly interrupted.
For yours truly, the festival’s recent success and resultant growth has made it harder to get up close and personal with the headliners and bigger names on the bill. So, for me, the pleasure of Pilgrimage has become the opportunity to see some great new talent early during the day at the comfy confines of the smaller stages.
On this shortened Saturday, by the time I had to make my retreat to the sanctuary of nearby Factory, I had seen four full fantastic sets that had already made for a quite satisfying day.
First off was Sarah Shook & the Disarmers from North Carolina who played a smoking set of rockified country-flavored original songs. I doubt young Sarah and her band have never before played at 10:30 in the morning! I kept thinking of how a perfect closer to their set would have been a Ramones cover!
My next move was to a larger stage for the current hottest act to come out of East Nashville, Aaron Lee Tasjan. As always, looking quite dapper, Tasjan seems to channel the best of Tom Petty while looking like Beck. Sounding so young, fresh and vital, I too fell victim to all the buzz he has been getting. Note to Chris Stapleton: This guy has a few songs you should cover! Also, was that tale he told about Bob Dylan telling Elvis Costello and Diana Krall about their music together “sounding like what you hear on a cruise ship” for real?
Next, on the smallest stage in the house was my surprise visit to a short session from the Kansas Bible Company transplants from Indiana who now call Nashville their home. In about three seconds, I knew I was going to love these eleven guys who had to create two rows to cram into this tiny space. Hard to categorize, I finally settled for just “fantastic.” With their horns and guitars a blazing, it was like someone gave the 70’s band Blood Sweat and Tears a large shot of adrenaline. I gotta see these guys again.
The final set before making my mad dash off the Farm was the one I was most looking forward to. A last- minute addition to the festival line-up, the great singer-songwriter from the Faroe Islands, Teitur, played a scheduled 30-minute set (cut short by a song) that was squeezed in courtesy of the vacant children’s stage. If you don’t know him you should, especially his beautiful love song, “One and Only” that you will wish you had played at your wedding. Teitur’s 2003 debut LP, Poetry and Airplanes, has long been one of my desert-island-discs.
So, that was it for the music. Some 15,000 strong, we orderly left the Farm before the rains kicked in. Many like me, waited hopeful, but pessimistic, for over two hours at nearby Factory until 7pm when we got the word that the rest of the day had been called off.
I write this early Sunday morning with the Day Two weather looking as unpromising as the first. No announcement has been made yet as for any possible makeups from the missing Day One headliners nor about possible refunds, nor whether for that matter, today will go on at all.
Weather is just a fact of life when it comes to outdoor shows. It’s just quite more of a challenge and burden when you are dealing with an event this large and the amount of people and money involved. My heart goes out to those who travelled far to get here.
UPDATE: Day Two has been cancelled which means I won’t get to see The Struts. Pilgrimage Festival has had three (and almost a half) great years. I hope that the organizers can bear any loses and make the right decisions about rescheduling, refunding etc. I hate to see this festival not continue in the future. It really has been a delightful event and great for my hometown of Franklin.