Pilgrimage Festival co-founder W. Brandt Wood speaks during the festival’s launch lunch at the Factory, while co-founder Kevin Griffin watches from offstage.//Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
The founders of Pilgrimage Festival on Tuesday announced the lineup for this fall’s two-day concert at Harlinsdale Farm.
W. Brandt Wood and Kevin Griffin, festival co-founders, discussed the new elements to the festival during an intimate lunch inside the Jamison Theater in the Factory at Franklin.
Headliners include Jack White, Chris Stapleton and Lionel Richie, as well as Hozier, Counting Crows, and returning local artists Devon Gilfillian and Bishop Gunn.
Wood, an entertainment producer, said it was a “natural evolution” to have Stapleton as a headliner after the country music star performed during an afternoon slot at the 2015 festival.
“He sang, ‘You Are My Sunshine,’ and it stopped raining,” Wood said.
“He represents our version of country music,” Wood continued, a genre which includes artists like Nikki Lane and Willie Nelson. “Our pattern of country music is kind of an alt-country, an outlaw country, and that’s our jam,” he said.
“This year, we kind of got the top of blues rock in Jack [White], the top of alt country and the top of R&B,” Wood said, referring to Richie.
Finding diverse and talented headliners with name recognition is a key to attracting similarly talented, lesser-known artists; Nashville musician Devon Gilfillian and his band were one of the groups Wood said had been chosen again for the way their sound meshed with the rest of the festival lineup.
Gilfillian and his band members performed their bluesy, jazz rock music during the event Tuesday afternoon.
Wood and Griffin described the festival’s new features, including a special VIP experience in conjunction with Blackberry Farm in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.
At the entrance to the farm this year will be the Millville Tennessee Market, inspired by the Millington neighborhood in Memphis where Justin Timberlake grew up, as well as his Leiper’s Fork complex, dubbed “Millville.”
Chris Thomas, the founder and owner of Made South, a local market, spoke about lending the brand to the festival’s Made South Maker’s Village this year.
“I think you guys have created something that transcends music and it reaches into culinary and art,” he said. “We feel like it’s going to be a place where some of the best makers and artisans from all over the South will be able to have their stories woven into the fabric of Pilgrimage.”
“There is simply no other festival that can deliver something like that gentleman and his team can do,” Wood said of the quality of Made South’s goods.
Wood and Griffin said they want to continue bringing cultural experiences to Franklin, as well as helping maintain the history of Harlinsdale Farm.
Addressing concerns of overcrowding and traffic nightmares from last year’s festival, Griffin said the festival would not grow to unwieldy proportions.
“It’s a boutique festival, it always will be,” Wood said.
“This is what people love about Pilgrimage, is that we’re the same size this year as we were last year, and we want to grow it following the right practices,” Griffin added.
Wood also pointed out the city’s planned infrastructure developments, like sidewalks up Franklin Road from the Harpeth River to Harlinsdale, and a bridge over the river to the west of the farm.
“These are infrastructure improvements that help us deliver a safer, more efficient festival in so many ways,” Wood said, mentioning the recently granted long-term permit issued by the City of Franklin for the festival.
Ellie Westman Chin, the president and CEO of Visit Franklin, the county’s convention and visitors bureau, said the festival’s impact could be felt far beyond the September weekend when it is held, both in doubled media impressions and in visibility for the city.
“The exposure we get year round from the concert is amazing,” she said.
The city of Franklin, the Franklin police and fire departments, Williamson Medical, Williamson County, the city parks department and the Friends of Franklin Parks each received image compilations of the festival from years past to honor their support.
General admission passes will be $185, a $10 increase from last year, and will go on sale to the general public on Friday, March, 30. Click here to learn more, and for the full lineup.