Review + Photos: Pilgrimage Festival 2015 (Weezer, Wilco, Steven Tyler, Cage the Elephant, + more)

Steven Tyler
With cotton candy clouds painted in orange and purple, I found my self sitting in a teepee in the middle of Harlinsdale farm in Franklin, Tennessee watching the sun set. It was the perfect way to end the night as I sat in the artist lounge playing corn hole while Willie Nelson’s tranquil voice drifted through the speakers. The inaugural Pilgrimage Festival is going to be the first of many as the first year was a hit with headliners like Wilco, Willie Nelson, Cage the Elephant, and Weezer.

Founder of the festival, Kevin Griffin, came up with an idea to organize a music festival that was family friendly. The Pilgrimage Festival was not intentioned to compete with Bonaroo, but to attract a multi generational crowd that would feel comfortable bringing their kids along; and it did just that. The festival grounds were laid out beautifully, the three stages were not too far apart so there was not a lot of walking. There was also a great collection of local businesses, food trucks, and art.

Despite the weather forecast, the rain decided to hold off for most of the day on Saturday. Halfway through Weezer’s set, the skies opened up and it poured. The guys of Weezer had to take a short break to move their equipment because it was rain was relentless. By the time Wilco was supposed to start, the rain had not given up so the stage hands had to work diligently to push all of the water off of the stage.

Many of the artists stayed at the festival to enjoy the music all weekend, and they were spot walking around. I ran into Neko Case in the VIP lounge and Nick Bockrath, the lead guitarist of Cage the Elephant.

The festival had an eclectic lineup where you could feel the peace and love with Jimmy Cliff or try to find something new with John & Jacob who have a sound you might find in Austin,Texas or a reincarnation of the Everly Brothers. Blues lovers were astounded with Kingfish’s incredible guitar playing skills equal to those of B.B. King and Steevie Ray Vaughn.

Now, lets get to the important part. Here are the top 5 things you missed if you weren’t at the Pilgrimage Festival.

  1. Steven Tyler: Mr. Steven Tyler had a thirty minute slot to play at the Gold Record Road Stage, but was late due to the elongated soundcheck. Nevertheless, Tyler strutted out in his eccentric style and played many of the famous Aerosmith tunes, but none from his solo album. Tyler was not happy with the photo pit full of photographers as he tried to get us out before the first three songs were over and made a comment about us as we left.
  1. Culture: Not only was the Pilgrimage Festival enriched with many different musical acts from all genres, it attracted a diverse crowd. Kids got a rock and roll education at the Little Pilgrims stage when the musical entertainers covered songs by the Ramones, artwork from local artists was showcased in the barn, and the bazaar was busy with local food trucks.
  1. People: Unlike other music festivals, the festival goers were a lot more laid back. There was no pushing or shoving to get to the front of the pit. Everyone was genuinely happy to be a part of the festivities, and they were there for the right reason, the music.
  1. Decorations: The Decorations, wow. The management really thought everything through when designing the festival grounds. From the large VIP area, to the complimentary hammocks,colored streamers, and hanging lights from trees it was truly magical. The media lounge was also thoroughly decorated with couches draped with tapestries to give a perfect setting for artist interviews. The artists had an incredible set up as well which included a photo booth and teepees.
  1. Cage the Elephant: The best moment of the entire weekend was Cage the Elephant’s set. It was INCENDIARY; even if you were not a CTE fan, you were by the end. The hour and fifteen minute show was high energy as the guys crowd surfed multiple times, ran through the crowd, and they even pulled someone up on stage. Lead singer Matt Shultz called out a fan crowd surfing and said, “That was the most awkward crowd surf attempt ever”, and then the security began to send him out of the pit. Guitarist Brad Shultz proceeded to grab the young kid’s hand and pull him on stage, and he ran over to receive a sweaty hug from the band members.

Overall it was a great experience and I can’t wait to go again next year. The volunteers and staff were very helpful and professional for a first year festival. With this level of experience, I expect Pilgrimage to be one of the most popular festivals for many years to come.



Jeff Tweedy

Steven Tyler

Cage the Elephant


Neko Case

Saint Motel

Jimmy Cliff

Iron and Wine

John and Jacob



Follow updates from Pilgrimage Festival here.

Photos by Kate Teegardin | @teegardinphotos

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