Saturday, September 23, 2023

Day one of Pilgrimage Festival complete with pop, rock, country


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Photo and story by Tayhlor Stephenson / Lifestyles Editor

It was 90-something degrees outside, and the sun cast a smoldering hot spell on Franklin’s The Park at Harlinsdale. Regardless, several thousand festival-goers trekked the 230-acre farm to catch live performances from a full lineup of artists at Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival 2017.

Music is not defined by genre at Pilgrimage. Day one represented several music genres, including pop, rock and country. 

The Shadowboxers gain respect with a Justin Timberlake-influenced style

It was 12:36 p.m. when the alarm clock buzzed, signaling The Shadowboxers’ Synchrony Financial Midnight Sun stage set.

The Shadowboxers perform at the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival in Franklin, Tenn. on September 23, 2017. (Tayhlor Stephenson / MTSU Sidelines)

The pop, all-male band showcased some of their original work, such as “Build the Beat” and “Woman Through the Wall,” but because they have yet to release a full album, the band also performed several cover songs.

“It kind of still feels like summer right now, so if you don’t mind we’re gonna play a summer jam,” said The Shadowboxers’ Matt Lipkins as he played the keys and led his band in the performance of Calvin Harris’ “Slide,” which featured a quick-spoken rap from lead guitarist Adam Hoffman.

Perhaps the highlight of The Shadowboxers’ 60-minute set was the showcasing of guitarist Scott Tyler’s falsetto with Prince’s 1987 hit “Adore.” The band continued with their newly released single “Hot Damn!,” a track recorded under the influence of pop superstar and Saturday night’s headliner, Justin Timberlake. And because of the technical difficulties the band faced when attempting to perform another song, fans of the pop group were gifted a back-to-back production of “Hot Damn!” before The Shadowboxers left the stage.

Nikki Lane pulls generous crowd with ‘rockabilly’ tunes

Rock-inspired country artist Nikki Lane opened her set on the Infiniti Gold Record Road stage with the title track to her 2017 album, “Highway Queen.”

“Oh yippee ki yay,” she sang as she continued sharing her new tunes with the old-time western-themed “700,000 Rednecks.” From that point on, her growing crowd was hooked.

Lane’s style is unique to say the least. She has a bit of that Miranda Lambert spunk, gently reminding others not to cross her, but she carries herself in a very classy, subtle kind of way.

“It feels very good to be having a hometown show,” Lane said just before singing yet another 2017 release with “Send the Sun.”

The singer-songwriter is no stranger to Pilgrimage. She played the Franklin festival in its debut year in 2015, and just as she did then, she ended her set with a Bob Dylan song: “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.”

Colony House performs for hometown audience

There’s just something special about playing a hometown show, and Colony House proved just that with their leave-it-all-on-the-stage mentality as they performed a 60-minute set with high energy on the Southern Comfort Harpeth River stage.

The indie-rock band derives from Franklin, and Colony House appreciates their roots so much that they named the band after an apartment complex on 11th Ave. South.

“We don’t get to play in Tennessee very often, so we’re gonna make the most of it,” said the quartet’s lead vocalist, Caleb Chapman.

Will Chapman joins the crowd mid-performance at the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival in Franklin, Tenn. on September 23, 2017. (Tayhlor Stephenson / MTSU Sidelines)

They first amped up their audience with a 2014 release: “2:20.” As they transitioned into “Was It Me,” a track found on their 2017 album, “Only the Lonely,” drummer Will Chapman leaped from the stage to the ground his audience stood upon.

Colony House continued visiting both their 2014 debut album, “When I Was Younger,” and their 2017 album. Despite which album they shared songs from, the audience approved.

Fans sang along and swayed their arms from side-to-side until Colony House ended their set with a 2017 track titled “You Know It.”

“I’ve never been more excited for a show in my life,” Caleb said.

Walk The Moon performs new track, popular hits

Disney’s infamous “The Circle of Life” blared from the Synchrony Financial Midnight Sun stage speakers. Instantly, Walk The Moon was walking the stage with all eyes on them.

The all-male rock quartet kicked off their 75-minute set with a 2014 release “Up 2 U,” found on the “Talking Is Hard” album. They followed with several other 2014 tracks, including “Different Colors,” a song aimed at world diversity, and a slower-tempo deliverance of “Aquaman.”

Midway through their set, Walk The Moon shared their Friday release, “One Foot,” and fans were able to recite the lyrics right back to the band onstage.

Walk The Moon ended their set with a sing-along version of “Shut Up and Dance,” followed by “Anna Sun.”

Whether frontman Nicholas Petricca was beating the drums, playing the keys or chanting lyrics into the microphone, his stage presence set a high bar for the act to follow.

“I’m so excited to fan girl out for Justin … for JT,” said Walk The Moon frontman Nicholas Petricca.

Justin Timberlake serves hit-after-hit production 

After appearing to the Synchrony Financial Midnight Sun stage fashionably late and in an unexpected, down-home-kind-of-way, it didn’t take much for superstar Justin Timberlake to pump up his audience.

His hit-after-hit introduction consisted of “Drink You Away,” “Suit & Tie” and “My Love.”

Wearing a Pilgrimage festival tee and red bandana tied around his neck, Timberlake fit right in with the Franklin crowd, making it known Franklin is the place he calls home.

“I’m feeling like Dorothy, because there’s no place like home,” Timberlake said as he welcomed his audience to a show they wouldn’t soon forget.

Justin Timberlake headlines night one of the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival in Franklin, Tenn. on September 23, 2017. (Tayhlor Stephenson / MTSU Sidelines)

Timberlake continued with crowd-favorites “Holy Grail” and “Cry Me a River,” and fans sang along to every word.

Suddenly, Timberlake announced that award-winning country music artist Chris Stapleton and his wife, Morgane, would join the Pilgrimage lineup as guest performers.

“And just when you thought I had the best beard on stage,” Timberlake said as Stapleton inched toward the mic.

Together, the three vocalists performed Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey,” “Fire Away” and “Sometimes I cry.”

Timberlake then joked that any time either artist performs in the volunteer state, the other must show up. Fans were accepting of the idea.

Timberlake wrapped up his 90-minute set with “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” “SexyBack” and “Mirrors.”

And just as he ends every other set, Timberlake closed the night with one final statement: “One time for the Tennessee kids, y’all.”

Stay tuned for more coverage of Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival.

Follow Tayhlor Stephenson on Twitter at @tayhlor_s. 

To contact Lifestyles Editor Tayhlor Stephenson, email

For more updates, follow us at, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Life.

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