Thousands of fans made the trek to downtown Franklin for the fifth annual Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival on Saturday.
Although festivities last year were cancelled because of lightning, fans filed in through the gates with dispositions as sunny as the sky overhead.
Festival attendees were immediately greeted by music from the Millville stage, where local artists performed 30-minute sets into the afternoon. Named after the studio cottage where Justin Timberlake and creative director Trace Ayala planned the festival, the makeshift village featured plenty of tiny lounges and boutiques on wheels to greet people as they entered the festival.
Beyond Millville laid ASCAP’s Shady Grove, where indie-pop artist Anna Shoemaker showed off her unique and powerful voice. The audience lounged on plastic Adirondack chairs in the shade as they waited for the performance to start. Her music filled the quiet corner of the festival tucked between old farmhouses and trees filled with streamers
Opening with the high-energy single “What Am I Doing to Me?,” Shoemaker energized the crowd for the rest of the weekend. Radiating cool-girl energy in her black disco pants, cow-print heeled boots and boxy sunglasses, she shared her vulnerable lyrics over pop and R&B-styled percussion and guitar. Despite her tough exterior, Shoemaker’s energy was endlessly sweet and she seemed genuinely grateful for the opportunity. Smiling throughout, she sang about exes, anxiety and loneliness with grace and a positive outlook. Shoemaker closed her set with an empowering song over steel drum beats, sending the audience off for the rest of an incredible weekend.
Between sets, attendees browsed through the Maker’s Village, which featured over 50 booths where local artisans sold everything from handmade leather bags to customized guitar picks. Plenty of food vendors set up shop throughout the festival, including local favorites like Daddy’s Dogs and Franklin Cafe.
Pilgrimage holds a special place in the hearts of many Franklin residents, like Michael Reimer, who has come to the festival since it’s second year.
“I look forward to the chill atmosphere, hanging out and discovering new bands,” he said. “I’ve been to other festivals and the thing that sets Pilgrimage apart is where it’s located. Because it’s in Franklin it still feels like a small-town festival, despite its size.”
The festival definitely attracted powerhouse performers, both from across the country and right up the highway in Nashville. Local Lauren Daigle’s soulful sound powerfully carried over the natural amphitheater of the Midnight Sun main stage. Her hit “Still Rolling Stones” convinced the crowd to brave the direct sunlight for a better view.
Daigle’s set radiated positivity while her backup vocalists sambaed behind her. The tie-dye-clad ensemble reflected the same uplifting attitude as they smiled and danced along. Daigle’s take on contemporary Christian music had a particularly groovy sound backed up by elements of traditional gospel and big band brass sections.
Just several feet from the Harpeth River, Caroline Rose delivered one of the most memorable performances of the day. With a stage covered in houseplants and red velvet, Rose led an indie beach rock set different from any other performance of the day.
In her signature tube socks and red bandana, Rose truly gave herself a workout on stage. Her jumping, dancing and head banging definitely helped her work up a sweat during the sweltering midday set. Her keyboardist especially brought the energy, hitting perfect harmonies while dancing with a vigor that would put Elvis to shame.
The crowd laughed as much as they danced while Rose cracked jokes between songs. Her down-to-earth personality was instantly relatable and quickly coaxed the audience out of their lawn chairs and closer to the stage. She had an unmatched stage presence that included seductively posing for photographers, chugging a White Claw and sitting on amps to be closer to the crowd. Rose closed out her set with a rendition of “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” on kazoo that had the crowd singing and cheering along.
Soulful artist Leon Bridges primed the crowd for the night’s headliner with a slower set that showed off his smooth vocals. As the sun began to set, Bridges closed his set leaving the crowd energized and full of anticipation.
With a photo of Ric Ocasek of The Cars lighting up the LED screen, The Killers began their headlining set with a cover of “Best Friend’s Girl.” In a blue satin suit, frontman Brandon Flowers looked the part of a glam rock icon. Their set brought together fans of all ages, from “Hot Fuss” diehards to fans hardly old enough to stand on their own. Their hit “Somebody Told Me” kicked off the remainder of their set, with the crowd filling in on the background vocals. An illuminated “K” sat at the front of the stage while custom lighting rigs hung behind the band. Playing songs from throughout their discography, there was truly something for everyone in their set.
As the night came to a close, a mass of people started the trek across Franklin Road to get some rest and do it all over again the next day.
Photos by Colby Crosby.