We’ll Never Forget These 5 Pilgrimage Moments

For music fans in Franklin, this time of year is almost like Christmas morning! That, of course, means that it is time for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival to take over the Park at Harlinsdale Farm and fill it with foods and makers from across the Southeast, but even more so with musical acts that are sure to leave you with once in a lifetime performances! Here are five of the top performances and moments from over the years that we’ve been dreaming about ever since!

Before we get to those great moments from the past, it’s only appropriate to set the mood by clicking the play button on this Spotify playlist featuring the artists taking the stage at this year’s Pilgrimage Festival!

Justin Timberlake takes the stage!

Justin Timberlake came on as a co-producer of the festival in its second year, but in year three…. well, let’s just say the crowd knew from the start that one of the greatest performers on the planet had stepped on stage. This was one of the VERY few performances for him that year and we feel his best, but we could be biased. Some others might consider that little gig doing the Super Bowl halftime show to be a big one too! [wink] The crowd was awed by JT and the Tennessee Kids, then the surprise of the night came when Chris Stapleton stepped out on stage, but more on that later! After more than an hour of his decades of hits and new stuff too, JT finished the by standing on the stage’s edge and screaming, “Franklin, I love you!” Same JT, Same!

Chris Stapleton Surprise

Chris Stapleton lands in the No. 2 spot for two reasons. His surprise appearance with Justin Timberlake at the 2017 festival, and because he took the Pilgrimage stage and wowed the crowd in 2015 during the inaugural year of the festival. His performance in 2015 was just a few weeks before the whole world took notice of him during his duet with Justin Timberlake for a mashup of their hits “Tennessee Whiskey” and “Drink You Away” at the CMA Awards that year. When Stapleton first took the Pilgrimage stage he was in the midst of his Traveller album rising up the charts and eventually being nominated (and winning) most every award possible later that year. Fast forward two years to 2017 and Timberlake’s performance at Pilgrimage. JT references that CMA Awards performance, then brings Stapleton out and they debut the song “Say Something,” in addition to making a pact that any time either of them performs in the state of Tennessee, the other will be there. Can we just extend an open invitation for this duo to be at Pilgrimage Festival every year?

Eddie Vedder Steals The Show

When you think Eddie Vedder, you naturally think Pearl Jam, but the Pilgrimage Festival audience got a glimpse of the solo talents of Vedder to close out the festival in 2017. The crowd was in hysterics with excitement for new songs at the time like “Share the Light” and classics alike like “Hard Sun,” but from a musical standpoint, the best moments may have been when he flashed his instrumental genius. He did a memorable cover of The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” on the ukulele, then added a surprise duet with drummer Matt Cameron on “Just Breathe!” All that is not the most memorable though. Vedder talked about having met a young kid named Jack West on the streets of Franklin earlier in the day and thought he had a “cool shirt and cool voice.” He then invited Jack up on stage in front of 25,000 people and they performed a duet of “Society” together. Talk about a story to impress folks at dinner parties for the rest of your life!

Avett Brothers Rock Pilgrimage

There have been a lot of acts that bring energy to the stage at Pilgrimage Festival each year, but many can make the argument that the Avett Brothers brought it like no other! Their performance started in the daylight, and as the sunset behind them and the stage lights got increasingly brighter on the Gold Record Road stage the energy from both them and the crowd seemed to follow suit. The band bounced back and forth between their more traditional sounds and straight guitar riff-filled rock. For the entire length of their 14-song set, the crowd was dancing and riding the wave of hits like, “Ain’t No Man,” “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,” and of course their first No. 1 “No Hard Feelings.”


Weezer was one of the inaugural acts on the very first day of Pilgrimage Festival in 2015. While most everything was new – as you would expect at a new festival – some things simply didn’t require an introduction. Like Weezer! There was no intro for them, no countdown, they just walked out and immediately began laying hit after hit on the crowd. And the crowd went bonkers. When you have a career full of hits like Weezer you can pull off a move like that, and did they ever.

What are some of your favorite Pilgrimage Festival performances? Did we leave one off that should have made the list? Let us know in the comments!

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Matt is the guy who is always ready to share a story with you.

With a passion for new experiences, taking the back roads, and seeing everything possible, Matt serves as Visit Franklin's Senior Director of Public Relations connecting the many unique stories in the Franklin community with great journalists and storytellers worldwide. When not pitching a story idea to travel writers, you’ll likely find him working as a photographer on the sidelines of college and professional sports events across the Southeast.