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Pilgrimage Music Festival Gets Pummeled by the Forecast in Franklin

by Rich and Laura Lynch

If there is a Pilgrimage Music Festival again next year perhaps they could book John Fogerty as a headliner. At least he'd be in place to sing "Who'll Stop the Rain" should inclement weather break out again. A lot of time, effort and money goes into planning a two-day outdoor festival. Organizers, vendors and attendees of the Pilgrimage Festival had positive expectations for September 22 and 23, 2018 but weather is a factor that folks cannot control.

Adam Duritz and the Counting Crows were in fine form before they had to cut their set short.

By mid-afternoon there were reports that lighting was in vicinity of Franklin, Tennessee, so a decision was made to evacuate Pilgrimage. Additional safety concerns led to long delays in allowing people to exit the Festival parking lots. Since the multi-colored radar showed similar weather patterns for Sunday the second day of the event was also canceled.

These circumstances left a lot of people disappointed and disgruntled which is unfortunate as there were a lot of positives to the Pilgrimage Festival. The Park at Harlinsdale where the Festival was held is a wide open green space that was able to accommodate six stages. Over the two days, 60 plus diverse artists had been scheduled to perform. Topping the impressive list of musicians were Jack White, Lionel Richie, Hozier, Counting Crows and Amos Lee on Saturday. Sunday's scheduled highlights were to include Chris Stapleton, Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds, Brandi Carlile, Bleachers and Lord Huron.

Taylor Dawes and Dawes left us in awe.

Facilities, vendors, recycling/garbage and water re-fill stations were plentiful and in proximity to the stages. There were numerous food options and the new for this year Made South Makers Village was sizable. In a barn the works of painters were on display and artwork could be seen at the Festival. Some of the vendors were selling creative crafts, too. One could have spent hours investigating just the visual aspects of the Festival but music also abounded here.

At large gatherings such as Pilgrimage there are several approaches fans can take. One is to park a chair near one of the stages and enjoy the bands playing there. From there you can walk over to another stage and stand as other artists perform then return to your spot throughout the day. Another is to keep walking around and taking in as much of the music as possible. Another idea is to hang out at a less crowded space and discover lesser known but still noteworthy talent. Our choice on this occasion was to traverse the Festival absorbing as much art and music as we could.

Bishop Gunn pulled the trigger on only one of two scheduled slots - the weather had other ideas.

Our first stop on Saturday was the Americana Music Triangle Experience tent. We were just in time to catch one of our favorite newer bands. Bishop Gunn is a quartet of young guns from Natchez, Mississippi. As you might expect for a group who named their first album for their hometown their sound is very much rooted in the history and the surrounding Delta. As Led Zeppelin borrowed from the music of the region, now Bishop Gunn is mining from that famous four-piece and other influences. At Pilgrimage they presented an acoustic set and took part in a Q&A. Their set featured "Shine" along with "The Devil Is a Woman" and a winsome "Wheels" from their sharp shooting debut record. The band was warmly received in the crowded tent which was also home to a number of organizations including The Country Music Hall of Fame, The Ryman, The New Orleans Jazz Museum and more.

The Millville Kimbro Pickin' Parlor was a less crowed patch but still thrived with talent featuring Kansas Bible Company, The Rumba Madre and more. Next, was Amos Lee at the Gold Record Road stage. This singer-songwriter's style echoed of folk, gospel, rock and soul. Amos soulfully delivered his past and present material which included the compelling "Jesus Can You Help Me Now", "All You Got Is A Song" from My New Moon and additional songs with good grooves. Lee's "folksy, bluesy sound" has been compared to that of John Prine and Norah Jones. His music is said to utilize the "supple funk of his vocals and arid strum of his guitar" while recalling "the low-volume, early-'70s acoustic soul of stars like Bill Withers and Minnie Ripperton."

A great day was underway in Franklin until the festival was canceled due to weather.

Dawes from Los Angeles, California is currently on tour in support of Passwords their sixth studio album, released on June 22, 2018. The platter saw the return of producer Jonathan Wilson, and is "for and about the modern age: the relationships that fill it, the politics that divide it, and the small victories and big losses that give it shape." This talented team attracted an ample audience to the Midnight Sun stage with songs that were heavy yet hooky with lyrics like "let's raise a glass to all the people you're not speaking to" (Things Happen). "Living In The Future" from their most recent effort was relatable and relevant.

Back at Gold Records was the Counting Crows who were churning out the hits to the delight of fans. Lead singer Adam Duritz shared that they have been all around the country over their 25 year career and when they wrote "Omaha" each band member picked up different instruments to try and capture varied vibes. One of them was an accordion which became an important part of that popular song and it could be heard high in the mix even at this big outdoor setting. The Counting Crows were solid but it was during their set that the stormy announcement was made.

Amos Lee and Valerie June performed in Franklin, Tennessee.

A small group of attendees which included ourselves were able to make lemonade out of lemons in regards to Pilgrimage. How? As luck would have it, we had parked at Westlight Studios which is right across the street from Harlinsdale Park. Michael Gomez the owner who has photographed Josh Turner, Kellie Pickler, Marty Stuart, Scott Hamilton to name just a few, invited folks to take shelter in his studio. While we all waited to hear if the Festival would continue folks socialized.

One group of people even started a small singing circle. We happened to sit at a table with Chris Fisher and family. Chris of Easter Island Studio is a multi-instrumental producer in the Nashville region. Like us they were from the northeast who had come to Music City in search of opportunity and warmer weather. We shared beer (thanks Chris) and conversation with them before heading home.

Michael Gomez and Westlight Studios provided hospitality for dozens of stranded fans.

Westlight Studios is one of Nashville's most popular photography and video rental studios with 6000 square feet of space with great flexibility in size and rental cost. It has Two cyc walls, green rooms, coffee lounge, makeup and dressing rooms for each studio & rental gear is also available. Michael Gomez and his family were very friendly and Michael's work which adorned his walls was impressive, so it was a bonus for us to meet this respected artist.

Major, outdoor festivals have an element of uncertainty and weather happens. As it was - from our perspective the planned two days event had only barely reached the 25% completion mark - when Adam from the Counting Crows had the unfortunate task of announcing the "halting of programming" to the letdown of the thousands of fans and other participants who made the pilgrimage 20 miles south of Nashville to be a part of an event that featured many marquee acts in what should have been an ideal setting. Time will tell if there will be another Pilgrimage Festival - perhaps one on a smaller scale with John Fogerty as one of the headliners?

It was sad to see the much anticipated big time event unable to deliver its full slate of acts.

Related Links: For more information on the PILGRIMAGE MUSIC FESTIVAL and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Pilgrimage Music Festival | Westlight Photography Studios | Chris Fisher - Producer


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