This weekend marked the first ever Pilgrimage Festival, held just outside Nashville, Tenn. in scenic city of Franklin.
The brand new event, founded by Kevin Griffin, lead singer of Better Than Ezra, attracted musicians from across the country, as well as the Music City. Although a wide array of artists performed, country music was well-represented during the two-day event.
Some of Nashville's youngest and most promising talent took the stage early, including throwback songstress Nikki Lane and Alabama natives John and Jacob. Lane provided a laid-back performance of tracks from her 2014 album, All or Nothin', as well as a cover of Buddy Miller's "Gasoline and Matches". John and Jacob, clad in matching powder-blue suits, kept up the Miller-inspired vibe with their high-energy tunes, including "Done", The Band Perry hit that was written by band members Jacob Bryant and John Davidson.
Even with the threat of stormy weather hovering overhead, acclaimed singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton drew a huge crowd. Backed by a stellar band that included his wife Morgane, guitarist and producer Dave Cobb and well-renowned pedal steel player Robby Turner, Stapleton kept fans engaged through his 50-minute set. He jammed through many tracks from his breakthrough album, Traveller, including "Tennessee Whiskey" and "Might As Well Get Stoned". As rain started to fall, his lighthearted performance of "You Are My Sunshine" helped to win over the crowd and drive away the storm clouds.
Although Steven Tyler has been hard at work on a country album here in Nashville, his half-hour set only featured one country track. Other than his debut single, "Love Is Your Name", the rest of the set was dedicated to his biggest Aerosmith hits, many of which were infused with some plucky banjo.
As a beautiful orange sunset surrounded the festival, Willie Nelson closed out the festival in style. He skipped the onstage banter, except for a few humble thanks-yous and focused on streaming through his almost endless list of hits. From "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" to cuts like "It's All Going to Pot" from his latest album with Merle Haggard, Nelson made every penny of admission worthwhile for concertgoers. After a long weekend of music, Nelson's version of Hank Williams' "I Saw the Light" was the perfect way to say goodbye -- until next year.