Pilgrimage Festival 2017: 8 Reasons We're Excited for the Tennessee Fest

Atmosphere at the 2016 Pilgrimage Festival in Franklin, Tenn.
Jason Myers

Atmosphere at the 2016 Pilgrimage Festival in Franklin, Tenn.

The 2017 festival season got off to, let’s say, a memorable start thanks to the ill-fated schadenfreude extravaganza that was Fyre Festival.

Thankfully, the rest of this year’s anticipated festivals are well-oiled machines that are, especially in the case of the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, the polar opposite of Fyre Festival.

Located on beautiful farmland in Franklin, Tennessee, the two-day event features some heavy-hitting headliners and can’t-miss under-the-radar acts to boot.

While we’ve got a few more weeks until Pilgrimage 2017 (it begins on Sept. 23), we’ve already got some things we’re looking forward to.

Justin Timberlake Is Coming Home

JT can command any stage, whether he’s kicking off the Oscars or captivating stadium crowds, but he’s going to truly be at home at Pilgrimage. Timberlake is not only a Tennessee native (Memphis, to be exact), but he’s also the festival’s partial owner and co-producer. In other words, he’s not going to fuck this thing up. And for anyone thinking the "Can’t Stop the Feeling" crooner may be out of place on a lineup that includes the likes of Ryan Adams and Eddie Vedder, think again. Better yet, watch the incredible Jonathan Demme-directed music doc Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids and you’ll know that there’s no other place the performer should be.

Steve Wrubel
The 2016 Pilgrimage Festival in Franklin, Tenn.

The Rest of the Headliners Are No Joke

As mentioned, JT will be one of the big names alongside Adams and Vedder, who fit perfectly into the festival’s predominantly rock/alternative vibe. Adams is fresh off his stellar new album Prisoner and new Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Vedder is always a must-see, even if he doesn’t have Pearl Jam by his side.

Actually, the Entire Lineup Is Stacked

Timberlake, Vedder, and Adams are worth the price of admission alone (which, when you do the math, is incredibly inexpensive, whether you do the full weekend or one-day passes), but there are outstanding musicians and bands to see throughout both days. From The Avett Brothers to Mavis Staples to The Revivalists to Gary Clark Jr. to Walk the Moon to Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, the only downside of a diverse lineup this impressive is the possibility that too many great acts could overlap. Get ready to wear your runnin’ boots, because you might be doing some stage-hopping.

In Addition to Music, There’s Top Food and Drink

If you’re going to be in Tennessee, you’re going to eat well. It’s a fact of life down there. Luckily, merchants and vendors from surrounding areas will be serving up regional favorites like BBQ and, hopefully, even more BBQ. (That’s right, no tragic cheese sandwiches to be found anywhere near this festival.) You’ll get to wash it all down with beer and wine and any other number of boozy options there. 

It’s Not Going to be a Million Degrees

Don’t get us wrong, it can still get toasty under the Tennessee sun in late September, but it’ll be nowhere near the scorching temps that you’d endure at most summertime festivals. If you’re road-tripping to the event, the changing foliage en route to Franklin will be worth the trip in and of itself.

No Camping Makes For Less of a Shitshow

Camping can be an awesome part of the festival experience, but you know what else is? Getting a decent night’s sleep in a bed, and taking a shower, and not worrying that a rogue hippie might accidentally wander into your tent and gank your Fritos -- that’s pretty great, too. The festival, which is just 20 miles out of Nashville, goes from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday and parking passes (including VIP passes) are available to all those coming and going.

When the Shows Are Over, You Can Explore Franklin and Nashville

Circling back to the whole disadvantages of camping thing: once you’re on the property, you’re pretty much stuck. With Pilgrimage, once the daily festival programming is over, you can hop in your car, head to your hotel/AirBnB/friend’s den, and then actually get out and see what both Nashville and Franklin have to offer. (Hint: it’s more incredible live music and indescribably delicious foodstuffs.)

It’s Essentially Bonnaroo Lite

The Pilgrimage Festival comes at the ideal time, really. It’s wonderful weather-wise, and it’s also at the tail end of festival season. So, if you’re burned out by the likes of party-centric settings like Coachella or Governors Ball, Pilgrimage is a welcome sigh of relief. For those who miss the early days of Bonnaroo and its significantly chiller vibes of the early 2000s, Pilgrimage will strike that chord thanks to the smaller crowds and all-ages atmosphere. Pilgrimage is also not too big for its britches…yet. In fact, this could be the year that makes Pilgrimage blow up into a can’t-miss fest, so it’s best to get on board now.