I’ve been open here about my Festivalitis – in general, I tend to stray away from massive multi-day festivals, safely keeping my camping in the woods and my music in proper venues with real walls. But there are a few I will make an exception for: the safe, city-bound nature of Americana Music Festival or Shaky Knees, and especially Franklin’s Pilgrimage, which is as pristine, easy and kind as any massive assembly of bands this side (or any side) of the Mason Dixon. I’ve been since inception – before Justin Timberlake signed on – and always loved how I could see Jason Isbell at dusk and have my kids safely in bed by 9 pm. Thanks to Pilgrimage, my daughter saw Kacey Musgraves, Margo Price and Isbell all by the age of six weeks old, and we’ve always gone as a family – a nice change from my constant run of leaving the kids in the dust at home as I run around town, chasing music from here to there.
Heading out to Franklin for the Fest this weekend? Wise move. Here’s how we suggest you plan your days…
10:30 am: Start things off with our favorite East Nashville retro ramshackle rockers, the Blackfoot Gypsies, at the Southern Comfort Stage.
11:15 am: Wander of to Ruby Amanfu, with a dynamite, soulful range that will make it readily apparent why she’s been a favorite of Jack White (and us). She’ll be joined by Steelism, and their marvelous instrumental stylings.
12:50 pm: After a little lunch from one of Pilgrimage’s great food stations (i.e. stuff that is actually good!), we’re eager to see Jillian Jacqueline in a festival setting – we’re betting her pop-country amalgam with a lot of swagger will explode into even more dynamic forms.
1:30 pm: Nikki Lane. We always see the Queen of Outlaw Country Nikki Lane. Catch her for thirty minutes before heading to…
2:00 pm: Shovels and Rope. No duo out there can pack this much power into their performances, with evocative, gut-punching lyrics that force us to look deeper into the human condition, and the American story, than ever before.
2:50 pm: It was good living with you, Better Than Ezra. Thanks for putting this festial together.
3:30 pm: Tough call between Trombone Shorty and Angaleena Presely – we recommend you split this half and half. Shorty’s New Orleans musical blend is unmatchable, as is the cutting country of Presely. Do both, before catching the tail end of modern bluesman Gary Clark Jr.
5:00 pm: Yes, I know you can see Aaron Lee Tasjan in East Nashville with somewhat of a relative ease. However, we don’t miss a chance to see who we think is currently one of the best live performers around. In a festival setting, right before dusk, he’s a must-see.
6:00 pm: Dinner. Yeah, we scheduled in dinner. Dont’ starve. You can eat it while you watch the Avett Brothers, if that’s your thing.
7:00 pm: The day’s big attraction, and the festival’s newest partner, Justin Timberlake. Come out, and remind yourself how revolutionary his solo debut actually was.
12:00 pm: We’ll start today with Valerie June, whose music moves us with so much true and emotive soul. Her voice will shake you to the core.
12:35 pm: Catch a bit of harmonious duo Muddy Magnolias before heading to Langhorne Slim, who might preview some of the material from his excellent forthcoming new LP.
2:50 pm: Lunch, before Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives (it’s no superlative to say these guys are some of the best musicians around) which you’ll have to leave early enough to see Amanda Shires, who just won emerging artist of the year at Americana Honors and Awards and is a poetic, lyrical dream.
4:05 pm: We love the retro, midwest swank of Pokey Lafarge.
5:00 pm: MAVIS STAPLES IS A GODDESS AND YOU DO NOT MISS HER EVER. Ok?
6:00 pm: The night culminates in a Ryan Adams and Eddie Vedder double header, a rock and roll dream of ours since the early days of Heartbreaker and Ten. Head home, put the kids to bed – or go out to another show. It’s early enough, ain’t it?