Pilgrimage Music Festival: Six Things We Saw on Day One

Lori McKenna, Grace Potter, Beck Highlight Music Near Nashville

When it comes to the needs of live music fans, the Pilgrimage Music Festival thought of everything.

A whole lane of road was blocked off for pedestrians to walk the mile-long stretch from downtown Franklin to the second annual event at the Park at Harlinsdale. Live college football was available at the festival’s Beer Hall for those who needed a break from the nearly 10 hours of live music across five stages. On site there were 25 free water stations for folks to stay hydrated in the 93-degree Tennessee heat and an 800-square foot misting tent kept everyone cool.

Any live event can be a hassle for new moms. If kids are in tow, they have to cart all the stuff that comes with them — diapers, bottles, strollers, formula, breast pumps and more. And what if a little pilgrim has a diaper that needs changing?

Pilgrimage thought of that, too. Nashville’s Baby + Company offered a secluded quiet area with rocking chairs for new moms to nurse in private. They also offered changing stations so they wouldn’t have to change their little pilgrims out in the wild or make a long walk back to their car for privacy. It was like offering maternity parking at the grocery store, but better.

There was also plenty of live entertainment for the kids at the Friends of Franklin Parks Lil’ Pilgrims area. Nashville’s Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers led piratical sing-alongs and a conga line with several kids dancing in the front of the stage. Other children wore themselves out playing on the pirate ship playground or got their faces painted nearby.

Here are six other things we saw on day one of the all-genre event:

Wild Belle

Mickey Bernal/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival

The five-piece indie pop band from Chicago sizzled during their Pilgrimage debut. Led by siblings Elliot and Natalie Bergman, the group delivered selections from their two studio albums Isles and 2016’s Dreamland, which are both an interesting mix reggae, rock, ska and soul. At one point during their show, Natalie asked, “Is there a swimming hole nearby where we can get our bodies wet?”

The Struts

Anyone who walked away with a voice left after the explosive live glam rock by British outfit the Struts’ gets a major gold star. With pipes as powerful as Freddie Mercury’s, singing along to front man Luke Spiller will wear anyone out. But the crowd kept up as he led adoring fans through nearly an hour of rock ‘n’ roll cardio that had hands waving and clapping in the air to selections from 2016’s Everybody Wants including “Could Have Been Me,” “Dirty Sexy Money” and “These Times Are Changing.”

Grace Potter

Whether it’s rocking out on a flying v guitar or jumping around onstage to “Turntable” from 2012’s The Lion the Beast the Beat, Potter showed she can pretty much do anything in a crazy tight mini skirt. Her Pilgrimage debut had her pounding her fist to her heart while singing an uplifting “Look What We’ve Become” from 2015’s Midnight. Then she whipped out a gorgeous 12-string guitar and laid into “Empty Heart” from the same album.

Lori McKenna

rika Goldring/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival

There was no need for additional lighting for McKenna’s Pilgrimage debut. The five o’clock sun was blinding throughout her hour-long show, which featured live music from her new album The Bird and the Rifle. Before singing “Halfway Home,” new McKenna fans got a quick education on the Music Row hit-maker. The Stoughton, Massachusetts native shared she met her husband in the third grade. They married at 19 and have five children, some of whom were rocking out in the audience.


Mickey Bernal/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival

Lead singer John McCrea said the Sacramento quintet wanted to serve the audience whatever they wanted for the hour and 15 minutes they had with them. Heavy on the sarcasm, trumpet and the vibraslap, their hit-filled set featured fan-favorites “Short Skirt Long Jacket,” “Stick Shifts and Safety Belts,” “Love You Madly,” “Frank Sinatra” and “The Distance.”


Beck Hansen got personal several times with the crowd during his headlining Pilgrimage debut. Before singing “Heart is a Drum,” he mentioned the last time he was in Middle Tennessee he was working on Grammy-winning album Morning Phase. “So, it means a lot to play these songs here,” he said. The set included his biggest hits from Sea Change, Guero, Midnight Vultures, Odelay, Mellow Gold and his latest single “Wow.” He closed at 8 p.m. with an extended version of “Where It’s At” and the 2015 smash “Dreams.”

Day one of the second annual Pilgrimage Music Festival was almost perfect day for co-founder and Louisiana State University Tiger fan Kevin Griffin. Within the hour of Beck’s headlining finale, his LSU Tigers nearly beat the Auburn Tigers in college football.

With one second remaining, LSU quarterback Danny Etling threw the ball to wide receiver D.J. Chark in the back of the end zone as time ran out. But after review, the officials determined that the ball was snapped after time was up on the game clock, resulting in Auburn’s 18-13 win .

His band Better Than Ezra will make their Pilgrimage debut on day two (Sept. 25) of the festival with performances by with performances by Brothers Osborne, Anderson East, Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, Margo Price and more.

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.