Following a COVID-cancelled 2020, Franklin TN’s Pilgrimage Festival was back this year for its sixth time. While the vax requirement added a second wrist band to our arms, attendees did however only have to deal with a scorching sun on two cloudless days, instead of the oppressive heat of past festivals.
The only other difference inside the gates was one less stage which seemed to make the other three a bit more crowded. Sadly, we lost the smaller stage in the back of the park that offered the best views for some great acts that attracted smaller and more comfortable crowds. On the other hand, the Americana Music Triangle tent expanded its role by hosting a steady flow of live performances and proving to be a great place to hide from Mister Sun.
While yours truly wasn’t overly enthused about this year’s lineup, kudos to the organizers for landing two giant headliners in The Black Keys and Dave Matthews Band that I’m sure helped towards selling the festival out. Now, if you’ve been to a festival, you know that the day ends with the headliner, leaving them as the only act playing, making for one ginormous crowd. Having seen the Keys often enough and not really being much of a Matthews fan, I was more than happy to skip the masses of humanity and go home to watch some baseball on TV instead.
Here are some photos and quips about some of the acts I enjoyed. Because of schedule overlaps and the need to escape the Sun, I managed to only see a few complete sets while seeing several partial ones.
On Saturday, the first artist I saw was perhaps my festival favorite, Blues singer Robert Finley. I saw every minute of his lively show and found this entertaining gentleman to be the real deal. I guess though it was too early in the day for him to be joined by the producer of his latest LP, The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach.
Later that afternoon, I was lucky to see Finley again when he performed a brief set with just his guitarist inside the Triangle tent.
As his newest fan, I was also overjoyed to meet Robert Finley.
After getting the surprise of seeing young Katie Pruitt at Americanafest on Thursday, it was exciting to see her perform here on the Main Stage. Trust me, Katie is a superstar in waiting.
Making a quick dash to the second stage, I saw the excitingly entertaining Low Cut Connie honor the late Charlie Watts by squeezing an insane cover of The Stones “It’s Only Rock and Roll” into the middle of one of their songs. An adrenalin overload!
Back to the big stage where I saw the Pilgrimage band who made me go buy all their records, the crowd-pleasing Houndmouth. After getting to know all their records, I too plan on joining in on all the sing-alongs next time I see them.
My last stop before going home on Saturday found me at the small stage to see singer-songwriter Dylan LeBlanc. It’s a shame that he had to compete with all the sound coming from the nearby second stage.
Day two started off at the same place where I left the day before, when my ears caught the pleasant sound of Wax Owls from the small stage. This new band gets the award for my best new discovery at Pilgrimage.
Next were quick stops to see JD McPherson at the Main Stage and folk duo Jamestown Revival at the second stage.
Ready to again escape the Sun, I spent a good chunk of time in the Triangle Tent where I saw sets from hometown girl Lily Hiatt and from the energized Butch Walker. The former put forth a lot of passion with just an acoustic guitar while the latter performed like he was on the Main Stage. Because of COVID, for Butch, it was the first time he had played anywhere since Pilgrimage 2019!
As the day wore down, I sampled Khruangbin, Black Pumas and Cage the Elephant from a distance that included some listening from the Grilled Cheeserie truck. My day concluded with some lovely singing from local singer-songwriter Hailey Whitters (one of my 11’s!) at the small stage.
Despite just not having my dream list of artists, Music City Mike had a blast at the 2021 Pilgrimage where I felt totally safe and quite happy to hear live music return to my hometown. I’m ready for 2022.
Check out my Music City Mike YouTube channel (and subscribe if you haven’t) where you will find many complete song Pilgrimage performances in the “Live in Music City” folder.