Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Arts Festival returned for its second year in Franklin, Tennessee this September with a lineup packed with local Nashville bands and internationally-known heavy-hitters alike. For all those seasoned festival goers and uninitiated seekers alike, Pilgrimage is different than the average music-related outdoor gathering, and offers many other attractions to entertain the masses. With vendors from all over the country selling handmade goods and products, parts of the setting feel more like a flea market than a music festival. With a list of activities for children, the festival also focuses on creating a family-friendly environment where all can feel welcome and find something that delights. While the atmosphere and vendors were a great touch to the overall experience, I was on a mission for one thing and one thing alone: music.

I painstakingly prepared my show schedule, a difficult task given the fact that there were so many phenomenal choices: Hall & Oates, Beck, Violent Femmes, Kacey Musgraves, and Grace Potter, were slated to share stages with local favorites like Jason Isbell, Margo Price, Anderson East, and Langhorne Slim and the Law–all making waves across the globe in their own right. On day one, I swung by the main stage to catch the Icelandic rockers, Kaleo who were full of energy, their bluesy soul-inspired rock had the crowd moving from beginning to end. After having my mind blown by Kaleo, I decided to continue my international afternoon with British classic arena rock conglomerate The Struts (they aren’t playing arenas just yet, but believe me, they will be). The Struts looked like they were straight out of the 80’s big hair rock scene, their anthemic ballads were reminiscent of inconic bands like Queen and the Rolling Stones, and like those bands, The Struts major in crowd interaction and enthusiastic participation.

Kaleo–photo by Steve Wrubel
Kaleo–photo by Steve Wrubel
The Struts–photo by John Miller

Shakey Graves jumped on stage after The Struts and brought his signature style of whimsical wit, showering the crowd with his brand of Texas-bred punkicana sound and antics–kicking his amp, jumping off the kick drum, and beating the hell out of his little Martin acoustic guitar. He put on a thrilling show that kept us all on the edges of our seats (we didn’t have seats, but you get where I’m going here). After my heart stopped palpitating from Shakey’s set, I took my place in the crowd with much anticipation for Grace Potter, and when she and her band took the stage, pure magic happened. Psychedelic rock blasted over the festival grounds, her powerful voice mesmerized attendees; each move she made across the stage and every note she uttered completely enchanted the crowd.

Shakey Graves–photo by Terry Wyatt
Shakey Graves–photo by John Miller
Grace Potter—photo by Steve Wrubel
Grace Potter—photo by Steve Wrubel

The grand finale for night one was none other than Beck–the masses filled the field laid before the main stage just around sundown. Beck came out and without hesitation tore into old favorites like “Loser”, “Devil’s Haircut”, and “Where It’s At”, and finished the set with groovy new singles “Dreams” and “WOW”, a perfect ending to an amazing day.

Beck—photo by Tyler Leaman

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