By all accounts, day one of the first Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival at the Park at Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin was a success. With some ominous clouds in the sky and the threat of rain literally hanging over everyone’s heads, thousands descended on the park today for what was easily the finest lineup for a first festival in recent memory. With three stages and an additional kids stage, the biggest challenge of the day was deciding who to see. When the day included Wilco, Weezer, Dr. John, Sheryl Crow, Cage the Elephant, Punch Brothers, Trampled by Turtles, Neko Case, Iron & Wine, Will Hoge, Holly Williams, Saint Motel, Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear, Kingfish, Elel, Guthrie Brown and the Family Tree and Stevie Woodward, often on competing stages at overlapping times, you’ve got to make a choice. We did our best to split up and catch what we could. So much music also makes it difficult to take in the “cultural” part of the Music and Cultural Festival. If we weren’t grabbing a beverage or waiting on line for food, we were watching bands. Tomorrow may offer extra time to peruse the stalls at the Bazaar and check out the arts. Today was all about getting the lay of the land.
We hated to arrive as late we did, midway through Holly Williams’ set, but the singer’s voice on “Mama” carried clear over Franklin Road, providing an audio beacon that lead straight in and towards the Midnight Sun stage. We discovered a sizeable crowd already assembled, and Williams’ band in fine form. Though it came out in late 2013, Williams’ album “The Highway” was one of the finest country records we heard all of last year. After Williams’ set, it was time for lunch at Food Truck Village and Neko Case at the nearby Fender Premium Audio / Gold Record Road stage. The stage name is a nod to Franklin Road’s role as piece of the Gold Record Road in the Americana Music Triangle. Case’s set was solid, yet airy, backed by a two piece band, no drums, that gave her powerful voice plenty of room to breathe. “Night Still Comes” was stunning.
On the way back to the Midnight Sun stage, where we caught an excellent set from Iron & Wine, the moniker of, and band led by, Sam Beam, we also took in a bit of Nashville’s own Will Hoge on the Hard Rock’s Harpeth River Stage and ran into Tom Mason of Tom Mason and Buccaneers, who has just wrapped up a set at the Hohner Little Pilgrim’s Stage for kids.
Speaking of kids, Sheryl Crow, who put in an extraordinary hit-after-hit-after-hit set on the Midnight Sun stage, probably embodied the family-friendly aspect of the Festival the best. Several times during her hour-and-fifteen-minute performance, backed by her stellar mostly-Nashville-based touring band, Crow mentioned her own family, walked over to the side of the stage to entertain the assembled kids, including her own, or even brought children on stage to dance and sing with her. It was adorable. After suggesting everyone go out and buy Holly Williams’ record, and also mentioning that Williams is a recent mother — again, family — she brought Williams and Williams’ husband and guitar player Chris Coleman back out for a loose duet on “Strong Enough.” We were certain Crow had won the day by the end of her set. Word came later that Weezer were putting on their own hit-laden stellar set over on the Gold Record Road Stage. From NowPlayingNashville.com’s Jessica Musman: “Weezer was great. Just walked out on stage and started playing their hits. No introduction, but they didn’t need one. They’re Weezer. Crowd went crazy (crowd surfing, everyone sang along to every song, making the W Weezer sign with their hands).”
Well all right. We also got word that Dr. John on the Harpeth River stage was incredible. All this overlapped with Wilco, who started playing during what was the day’s most severe rainfall. Between opening with “More …” from its latest, Star Wars, and closing with the Mermaid Avenue era “California Stars,” Wilco plowed through one song after another, intent on giving the rain soaked crowd no time to think about it. We got “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” “Heavy Metal Drummer,” “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” “Box Full of Letters” and a jaw-dropping “Impossible Germany.” At only an hour and fifteen minutes, the band chose its set wisely and packed it in, making for a leave-’em-wanting more feeling, both for them and the festival.
As we were leaving, we heard a gentleman tell a security guard, “I’ll be back tomorrow … with my kids.”
Tomorrow’s lineup includes Nawas, The Grand Southern, Thad Cockrell & Friends, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Lucius, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, The Lone Bellow, Chris Stapleton, John & Jacob, Dawes, Jimmy Cliff, Nikki Lane, Band of Horses, Steven Tyler, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, The Decemberists and Willie Nelson. Single Day tickets are available.
For a recap of Day Two, click here.