Sights & Sounds of 2021 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival

A beautiful return to live music. 

Written by Cillea Houghton
Sights & Sounds of 2021 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival
FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 25: Maren Morris performs onstage during day one of the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 25, 2021 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)

It was a weekend filled with music, arts and culture at the seventh annual Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival. Music lovers headed 30 minutes south of Nashville to Harlinsadle Farm in Franklin, Tenn. for the two-day festival where music and culture were abound with performances by headlining acts Maren Morris, The Black Keyes and Dave Matthews Band, along with rising talent The Marcus King Band, Valerie June, Hailey Whitters and more.  

In her stellar Pilgrimage debut, Morris complimented her catalogue of hits with plenty of heart and emotion as she took to the Gold Record Road stage. The Texas native was self-admittedly “all in my feels,” as many family members and friends from her home state were in attendance. But the night was made even more personal by the fact that Morris was crossing a career threshold, announcing that this was her final show before the release of new music. “I feel like I’m saying goodbye to a chapter in my life,” she shared vulnerably with the crowd, in reference to her 2019 album Girl that earned her three hit songs, a pair of Grammy nominations and a CMA Award for Album of the Year. “It feels like the end of an era.” But before she makes way for her highly anticipated third studio album, Morris gave Girl a proper send off with a 90-minute set wherein she took the crowd “To Hell & Back,” delivered “A Song For Everything” and got the packed audience dancing under the stars with her breakthrough hit “The Middle” and the R&B-infused “RSVP.” The crowd was equally thrilled to hear “Redesigning Women,” the lead single from Morris’ supergroup The Highwomen alongside Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby and Amanda Shires, as they were reveling in her cover of Taylor Swift’s “Out of the Woods” that showed off her impressive vocal chops. The singer offered a particularly poignant moment when she invited husband Ryan Hurd onstage to perform “Chasing After You,” their duet that’s currently racing up the country charts. Their genuine connection was reflected in their sweet harmonies and humble delivery, the song ending with a tender embrace between the two. Morris stayed in this down-to-earth element with “I Could Use a Love Song,” before kicking the energy up a notch with the sassy “Rich,” that lead into her signature hit, “My Church” that sent a sea of hands into the air all the way to the back of the packed lawn. Morris ended the night on a special note, admitting to being overcome with emotion as she introduced “The Bones,” her multi-week hit that solidified her as a crossover superstar.  “I am most definitely going to cry,” she promised. True to her word, the songstress could be seen wiping tears from her eyes as she closed out her set, soaking in the moment of the energetic crowd, and setting the stage for a promising future ahead.

FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 26: A view of the stage and audience during day two of the 2021 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 26, 2021 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)

Throughout the weekend, music was inescapable, whether hearing a haunting Katie Pruitt song guide you out of the Americana Music Triangle tent and into the rugged blues-meets-country sounds of Larry Fleet and Morgan Wade as they dazzled the audience who gathered on the lawn of Gold Record Road. Along the way, there were countless vendors’ work to admire, ranging from hemp hats to Textile Revival, a  Leiper’s Fork-based company that turns clothing, furniture and other textiles into works of arts, ranging from painted denim jackets to an eclectic ensemble that features pieces of a wedding dress found in Franklin dating back to the 1890s. Meanwhile, the Americana Music Triangle tent welcomed a Sunday Service featuring former Today show host Kathie Lee Gifford and Louis York, the duo of Grammy nominated singer-songwriters Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony, who delighted the crowd seated in red cushioned pews with their brilliant musical stylings alongside the preacher leading the service.

After more than a year of the absence of live music as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pilgrimage was a reminder of the best Nashville and its surrounding area has to offer: delectable food, passionate artists and the dedicated fans who support them.