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Nine of the Best Things We Saw at Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival 2019

What an incredible weekend of music!

Written by Drew Michael Blake
Nine of the Best Things We Saw at Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival 2019
FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 21: Keith Urban performs onstage during day 1 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 21, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)

The 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival returned to Franklin, TN with a long-list of diverse artists that took over the many stages across the festival grounds. Top billed performers included Keith Urban, The Killers and Foo Fighters, making for an unforgettable weekend of music.

“What an incredible weekend,” co-founder Brandt Wood said at the conclusion of another successful run. “We’re overjoyed at the community’s support for Pilgrimage and are humbled by the enthusiasm shown by our vendors, sponsors, partners, industry friends and the artist community.” Added co-founder Michael Whelan, “Thank you for believing in this event and for making the pilgrimage with us!”

As the two-day festivities come to an end and becomes a special memory for those in attendance, we’re looking back at the nine best things we saw at the 2019 Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival:

FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 21: Butch Walker performs onstage during day 1 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 21, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)
FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 21: Butch Walker performs onstage during day 1 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 21, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)

As Saturday afternoon rolled around, rock producer, songwriter, and artist Butch Walker played a crowd that had plenty of room for dancing or just letting the soft breeze blow through. The faithful who were there were totally locked in, delighting in every note ringing from his semi-hollow electric guitar.

FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 21: Matthew Houck of Phosphorescent performs onstage during day 1 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 21, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)
FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 21: Matthew Houck of Phosphorescent performs onstage during day 1 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 21, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)

At the Gold Record Road stage on the other side of the festival, recent Nashville transplants Phosphorescent overcame sound issues in a lengthy soundcheck to deliver a blissed-out set of desert-voiced singer-songwriter tunes. Their dedicated fans didn’t seem to mind the heat of the sun or the length of the soundcheck once they were immersed in the atmosphere drenched with swirling pedal steel and ghostly organ. Phosphorescent specializes in mesmerizing instrumentation, drawing the listener into something akin to meditation while singer Matthew Houck’s cracked and mended tenor drips with emotion like wet leaves falling on an October day. They finished their set with their contribution to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 soundtrack, “Song for Zula,” from 2013’s Muchacho.

FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 21: Lauren Daigle performs onstage during day 1 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 21, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)
FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 21: Lauren Daigle performs onstage during day 1 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 21, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)

Contemporary Christian crossover Lauren Daigle’s mid-afternoon set was a Pilgrimage festival destination. The only act on either day to have a song on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2019 (“You Say” reached No.29 in March 2019), anticipation was tangible in the crowd as her ten-piece band took the stage in matching tie-die, and her microphone stood alone at center stage. At the front of the crowd, people of all ages pressed against the railing, hoping for the first glimpse of the Louisiana born-and-raised singer. Jogging on stage with both hands waving, she barely paused for breath before launching into the rollicking album opener “Still Rolling Stones.” Her voice may be cut from the same mold as Amy Winehouse and Adele, but Daigle is not beholden to the comparison. She delivers her songs with freedom, and she visibly delights in the joyful sound of her own band. After leading the crowd in her hit single, “You Say,” Daigle expressed her appreciation that she has been able to bring a song into the world that has meant so much to so many, saying she often feels she is not just singing from her own emotion, but what she senses in each audience member echoing the words back to center stage. Dressed in the same tie-dye wardrobe as the rest of her band, she offers the sense that she is more like the leader of a hippie choir than the ascendant pop star indicated by her chart position.

FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 21: Keith Urban performs onstage during day 1 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 21, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)
FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 21: Keith Urban performs onstage during day 1 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 21, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)

If you found yourself anywhere near the Gold Record stage around golden hour, you would be hard pressed to find anyone not singing along to the songs of Keith Urban. The Australian superstar was on hand to prove why he deserves to be one of country music’s most renowned entertainers. His voice and ageless looks are equally matched by his hook filled songs, and his legendary prowess on the six string guitar. Even a casual fan might find themselves twisting their neck to try to figure out how so much talent can be concentrated in one man.

The Killers; Photo by Rob Loud
The Killers; Photo by Rob Loud

As the sun set on Saturday, the crowd swelled for one of the 21st century’s biggest rock acts. The Killers have delivered hits since 2004, but neither their tunes nor the enthusiasm of the crowds seems to have aged. With hands held high, the crowd sang along to “Somebody Told Me,” just as loud as 2012’s “The Way It Was.” Lead singer Brandon Flowers was in peak form, dressed in a shimmering blue suit and leaping atop the platforms that spanned the front of the stage to lead the crowd in a cover of The Cars, “My Best Friend’s Girl,” honoring the recent loss of The Cars’ Ric Ocasek. 

FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 22: Devon Gilfillian performs onstage during day 2 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 22, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)
FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 22: Devon Gilfillian performs onstage during day 2 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 22, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)

With his “twin barrels of blues and soul,” Devon Gilfillian made believers out of the early Sunday afternoon crowd on the second sunny day of Pilgrimage Festival 2019. Local independent radio Lightning 100 has generously played every song released by the Nashville-based artist, from last year’s “High” to this year’s “Get Out and Get It” and “Even Though It Hurts,” it seems there’s always room in the playlist for the gifted singer and songwriter. Closing the set with 2018’s “Troublemaker,” Devon stood back to back with long time bass player Taylor Thompson, glass slide in hand as he channeled all of his powers into one last solo. 

FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 22: Jenny Lewis performs onstage during day 2 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 22, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)
FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 22: Jenny Lewis performs onstage during day 2 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 22, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)

Longtime LA indie-pop powerhouse Jenny Lewis now calls Nashville home, and seems delighted to do so. Sporting a gold-sequined mermaid dress and over-sized bedazzled sunglasses, the singer-songwriter pulled off the most complete transformation of the Midnight Sun stage, inviting us all into her turquoise and pink palace for an hour of the most delightful and transcendent California country-pop. Gifted with the poise and magnetism usually reserved for a Pixar® animated film, the landlocked mermaid held every eye through each turn of her epics of infidelity and heartbreak. 

As Jenny Lewis neared the end of her set, the sound of an old-timey telephone ring blasted from the stage. In a cutesy gag, Lewis answered on-stage landline phone complete with twisted cord. On the other end of the line was The Watson Twins, who backed Lewis on her first solo record in 2006 and now joined Lewis on stage for two numbers, ending with an a capella trio version of The Shirelles, “I Met Him on a Sunday.”

FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 22: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats performs onstage during day 2 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 22, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)
FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 22: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats performs onstage during day 2 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 22, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)

If you like what you’ve heard of Nathaniel Rateliff on the radio, you would love the set put on by the Colorado soul singer and his seven-piece band. If there were an award for “sounds most like the record,” Rateliff and company would clear the field. At times indistinguishable from the songs heard on the radio, the Night Sweats singer blasted through favorites, “You Worry Me” and “I Need Never Get Old.” Preservation Hall Jazz Band joined the stage after wrapping up their own set elsewhere at the festival, blasting out an extra horn-laden version of 2015’s “S.O.B.”

FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 22: Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters performs onstage during day 2 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 22, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)
FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 22: Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters performs onstage during day 2 of the 2019 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 22, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)

Entering with a furious blast of distorted electric guitar, and a frenetic sprint on stage, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl electrified the crowd that swelled as the sun went down on the final night of Pilgrimage Festival 2019. All day long, audience members had crowded the side exit of the main stage viewing area, staring for long stretches at the fleet of buses parked across the gravel road. An earlier sighting of Dave Grohl on the loose had prompted a flurry of interest from dedicated fans. The number of freshly acquired Foo Fighters hats and t-shirts seemed to indicate the rising anticipation of the legendary rock group’s festival closing appearance. Dressed plainly in a black t-shirt emblazoned with only the names of the hallowed duo, “Hall & Oates,” Grohl bounced from one side of the stage to the other pointing randomly into the dense throngs the pressed forward from all sides. “There are two things I love. Hall & Oates, and rock and roll. Do you like rock and roll? Do you want some rock and roll?” Ready or not, Foo Fighters were there to deliver.