After a rain-shortened 2018 event that generated an avalanche of cranky unjustified complaints about its cancellation, Franklin TN’s Pilgrimage Festival was back for its 5th year. Judging by the size and joy of the crowd, it’s safe to say that Pilgrimage has recovered and looks to be with us for years to come.
Once again, the festival, which is run by Better Than Ezra’s Kevin Griffin and sports Justin Timberlake as a co-owner, put together a strong two-day event of diverse talent. They also do a splendid job of transforming Harlinsdale Farm into a lively and colorful festival site. Now, if they could only do something about the scorching sun, like maybe move the festival timing to mid-October?
Nonetheless, covered with sunscreen and hydrating from our refillable water bottles, we all managed to score shade and rest as needed, while making our way amongst the four musical stages.
Starting off slow, my day began by sampling songs from several artists. My first stop was a few enjoyable numbers from an unfamiliar LA indie-folk band The Wild Reeds while they were closing their well-received set.
Next up were recent new Nashville residents, The Watson Twins, who, as always, can step out of their trusted backup singer role to deliver some fine material on their own. I still swear that there is no way to tell these sisters apart!
Heading over to the gigantic main stage, I had my senses joyfully overloaded by the energetically-brilliant Butch Walker who was joined later in his set by the Twins.
I left Butch early for my first full set of the day to see a band I am quite fond of, Phosphorescent. Led by another recent Music City transplant, Matthew Houck, after technical glitches delayed their start, the band in their newly-designed matching band tee-shirts, delivered a solid set of songs in their unique indie-folk sound that gets a little trippy at times. I can also say that I was safely nestled in my comfy viewing position alongside the contingent of waiting Keith Urban fans who were securing their prime concert real estate.
Another new artist for me was the colorful and aggressive rocking sound of Carolyn Rose, a huge crowd favorite due to local radio support from Lightning 100. She was the first artist I spotted who was smart enough to dress appropriate for the weather!
Rose’s set put me in prime position for my most anticipated set of the day, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians. While the stage area was near empty as many were watching Mr. Urban, in a flash the yard filled up minutes after the complete original band took the stage. They sounded fantastic, just like they “had been together since they were kids.” Edie’s vocals were brilliant and sharing in the joy she was exhibiting made their set of songs, both old and new, sound even more special.
All great days of music come to an end, and as with all good music festivals, when it comes down to the headliner, there’s only one place left to go. My joy button got turned up way high as I approached the huge swarming sea of humanity to the strains of The Killers opening their set with The Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl.” Their overly-charismatic and highly-talented front man, Brandon Flowers led his fine band through a spell-binding, visually-enhanced two-hour spectacle of their songs that have many calling them the best rock band of the 21st century. They just might be, and I loved every minute of it.
I’m ready for day two!