Country music was well represented at the second annual Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival at the Park at Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin, Tenn. over the weekend. Summer weather in the low 90s didn’t deter country fans from showing up early to see Brothers Osborne’s rocking set on Sunday afternoon (Sept. 25) and staying late for Jason Isbell’s mesmerizing performance.
Brothers Osborne performed during the hottest part of the day, taking the stage shortly after 2:15. While frontman TJ Osborne often doused himself with his water bottle to keep cool throughout their hour-long set, the heat had no effect on the band’s performance as brother John brought the guitar slinging and the band barely took a breather between each song. Set opener “Greener Pastures” kicked things off with TJ on a megaphone before the banjo heavy “Rum” had the entire crowd wishing they could be dipping their toes in the water as TJ sang at the start of the track.
Throughout their set, TJ’s deep vocals impressed alongside his brother John’s rapid fire guitar playing. Meanwhile, animated covers like Willie Nelson’s “Whiskey River” and the Dixie Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” had the crowd singing along. While Brothers Osborne know how to put on a rollicking show with plenty of upbeat songs, their ballads were also memorable. “Love the Lonely Out of You” featured TJ and John alone on stage and the stripped down feel gave fans a glimpse into how the band began years ago with just the two brothers. Meanwhile, new song “Weed, Whiskey and Willie,” which TJ called “a little topical,” had all listening intently as TJ sang, “When it all goes to hell the only thing I believe in is weed, whiskey and Willie.” It was on their first No. 1 hit, “Stay A Little Longer,” though, that had the crowd most animated and singing along.
On the road for the past year with her own Country & Western Rhinestone Revue as well as opening for George Strait at select dates, Kacey Musgraves brought the glitz and glamour to Pilgrimage Festival with her unique brand of country. Her stage was lit up with cactuses, her microphone stand in sparkles and her band lit-up in Nudie Suits before she joined them, in a white fringed skirt, red and white checkered shirt, vest and red hat and cowboy boots for the spirited “Pageant Material.” The animated “Biscuits” followed suit as Musgraves and her band ended the song square dancing with their instruments in hand.
“What a beautiful, sweaty ass afternoon,” Musgraves said several songs into her late afternoon set. “It’s been a while since we’ve played in Nashville or Franklin. I’m from an itty bitty town in Texas and this song is about my town.”
She then went into the twangy “This Town,” before playing a song she wrote about “going bats–t crazy after you get your heart smashed in two” that Miranda Lambert made famous — “Mama’s Broken Heart.” Putting her own country spin on Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and later Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” Musgraves and her band impressed while she alternated between guitar, vocals and harmonica. While “Follow Your Arrow” and a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” had the audience singing along, it was on Musgraves’ debut single “Merry Go ‘Round” that left a lasting mark. Prefacing her performance by revealing that she’s “about to have a nice break and do some writing,” her band left the stage so it was just Musgraves and her audience.
“You guys have allowed me to do some unbelievable things. I’m thankful you guys listen. You like words and I like words, too. It all started with this song,” she said prefacing “Merry Go ‘Round.”
And with that she stood onstage alone with guitar as the festival grounds went quiet as she sang her breakthrough single.
Additional country highlights on Day 2 of Pilgrimage Festival included Margo Price and Jason Isbell. Price, who recently won Emerging Artist of the Year at the 2016 Americana Awards, brought her traditional brand of country music to the festival and she wasn’t afraid to let everyone know.
“Y’all ready to hear some country music?” she asked two songs into her set. Dressed in a romper and knee-high boots, Price blended country, jazz and blues with her airy vocals and superb backing band.
The rollicking kiss-off “About to Find Out” segued into her ode to Tennessee, “Tennessee Song,” which had the audience screaming alongside harmonica accompaniment and Price’s whispered vocals. Three songs in, Price broke a guitar string but she didn’t miss a beat. Picking up tambourine she and the band kept the audience on their feet for the high energy “You Been Gone So Long.”
Isbell closed the country performances of the day, going on shortly before Daryl Hall and John Oates headlined the final night of the festival. “We’re happy to be so close to home,” he said as he took the stage with his band. Performing a 75-minute set that spanned his catalogue and included fan favorites like the Drive-By Truckers’ “Decoration Day” and “24 Frames,” which was recently awarded Song of the Year at the 2016 Americana Awards off of his Album of the Year win Something More Than Free.
His set included the poignant “Cover Me Up,” a song he wrote for his wife Amanda Shires, which appears on 2013’s Southeastern. Both songwriters, Isbell said he and his wife retreated to different sides of the house when he sat down to write the song.
“I knew if it wasn’t a very good song I would probably never see her again,” he joked. “I always play it for her wherever we are. I’m so glad she’s onstage with us so I can sing it for her and to her at the same time.”
As Shires stood beside him on fiddle, he sang the song looking at her intently while the audience was entranced, and later cheered at the line, “I sobered up / I swore off that stuff forever this time.”
Another memorable moment included Shires and Isbell on the stage alone for the heartfelt “Flagship.” After the couple closed the song their daughter, Mercy, was brought out onto the stage to say hi to the audience much to their delight.
As Sunday came to a close, country fans were no doubt satisfied (and a little sweaty) as 2016 Pilgrimage Festival brought them up close to some of their favorite country acts.