[INTERVIEW] Pilgrimage Co-Founder Kevin Griffin Talks Making It to Year Four, Learning Along the Way, and What to Expect at This Weekend’s Fest

KevinGriffin2016-620Kevin Griffin at Pilgrimage 2016. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship.

It was only a few years ago that Better Than Ezra frontman and accomplished songwriter and producer Kevin Griffin was out for a jog near his home in Franklin (having recently relocated from Los Angeles, and, before that, his native New Orleans), when he gazed upon the picturesque and sprawling Park at Harlinsdale Farm, a green space anyone who’s ever frequented The Factory shopping center across the street has surely driven by countless times, but perhaps never given a second thought to. Having long dreamed of founding his own music festival, in the mold of the New Orleans Jazz Fest he’d attended and performed for many years back home, Griffin had an a-ha moment: this was the place.

Along with his co-founders and longtime friends Michael Whelan and Brandt Wood, Kevin set out to create what would become Franklin’s Pilgrimage Festival, launching in the summer of 2015 to positive reviews and immediate success, a boutique and community-rooted event with an emphasis on all ages fun, a rootsy and well-curated mix of local and national talent, and a particularly well thought out slate of non-music offerings and activities. Not competing- at least not yet- with mega events like Bonnaroo, Pilgrimage has, for three years, benefitted from feeling like the perfect size and scale for the Nashville (and particularly Franklin) area, managing to grow, evolve, and improve each season.

We first caught up with co-founder Kevin Griffin in the summer of 2015, for a lengthy chat ahead of the inaugural Pilgrimage, as part of our former podcast series (it’s still a fascinating listen if you’re curious what goes into creating a major music festival from scratch). At the time, he was humble yet optimistic, still learning along the way, but confident in the great team he’d assembled to help plan and execute an event of this scale. He told us about building meaningful and long-lasting relationships with the community, knowing when to check your ego and delegate work and responsibility, and never taking for granted a festival’s success or future, sharing that a mantra in the festival world is that “if you make it to year three, you’ve got something.”

It seems fitting, then, that after three successful years and as we head into a fourth, set to take place this weekend, Sept. 22 and 23, with performers like Jack White, Chris Stapleton, and Lionel Richie, we were able to check back in with Kevin Griffin for another chat, to discuss what he’s learned along the way, the challenges and surprises that come with managing an event of this scale, living up to expectations and learning to adapt, balancing his creative and work life, and what to expect for Pilgrimage this year and going forward. Look for our full lineup guides throughout this week, find out more about Pilgrimage on the event’s site, and read our full interview with Kevin Griffin below!

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Catch Cincinnati’s Lung w/ Dad Hats & Leo Jones | TONIGHT @ Springwater Supper Club

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Made up of duo Kate Wakefield, an ex-opera singer turned experimental cello and vocal loop performer, and Daisy Caplan, a longtime figure in the Kentucky and Ohio underground punk and indie scene, best known as the former bassist for defunct beloved outfit Foxy Shazam, up and coming Cincinnati duo Lung have had an impressive run in just a few short years. The band played their first show in the spring of 2016, and have been on the road near-constantly ever since, performing hundreds of dates around the nation, in support of their 2017 debut full-length, Bottom of the Barrel, and brand new followup, All the King’s Horses.

With the unorthodox setup of Wakefield on electric cello and vocals and Caplan on drums, the group have developed a sound that’s hard to classify, pulling from elements of indie, post-punk, and heavy yet melodic avant-garde rock, all tied together by sharp, timely, and socially charged lyrics. Acclaimed for their layered, dynamic, and intense live show, this band should definitely be on your radar if you dig ambitious and expansive heavy indie rock, and if you’re looking for one of the best under the radar shows of the week, you can catch Lung live tonight, Sept. 18 at Springwater Supper Club, along with locals Dad Hats and Leo Jones.

It’s been a busy summer of festival coverage and regular plugs for major tours, but, as always, an important part of our mission is to keep you in the loop on the best shows off the beaten path; Springwater has long played host to some of the most interesting happenings in Nashville’s underground, and Lung are without a doubt a touring act worth shining a particular spotlight on. Along with poppy, indie, ’90s nostalgic newcomers Dad Hats topping off the evening, and Leo Jones getting things going, this dive bar punk show is the best $5 you’ll spend on music all week. Don’t miss out!

Lung, Dad Hats, and Leo Jones will perform tonight, Sept. 18 at Springwater Supper Club. The show is 21+, begins at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. doors), and admission is $5 at the door.

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Don’t Miss Drake & Migos w/ Roy Woods | TONIGHT @ Bridgestone Arena

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Arguably the biggest modern star of the rap world, beloved Canadian artist Drake returns to headline Bridgestone Arena tonight, Sept. 18 for a run in celebration of his huge new double album, Scorpion, a buzzy worthy and epic-in-scale tour with breakout group Migos they’ve dubbed Aubrey and The Three Migos (Aubrey Graham is Drake’s birth name, and the one he rise to fame as actor under), along with opener and Drake protégé Roy Woods.

Since rising to fame in 2010 with his debut, Thank Me Later, Drake has become a commercial juggernaut and musical phenomenon, frequently dominating pop culture with surprise releases, regular mixtapes, and larger than life LPs, which blend pop and r&b into his signature personal lyrical style, influencing the sound and landscape of hip hop around him. Atlanta trio Migos, likewise, have become a breakout, influential force in recent years, rising to the top of hip hop’s massively popular trap movement with last year’s Culture and this year’s Culture II.

Drake and Migos are an iconic and timely pairing alone, making opening this tour a daunting task, but with his contemporary hip hop and alt-r&b sound, fellow Canadian Roy Woods, signed to Drake’s OVO Sound imprint, feels up the the task, a rising star in his own right, with a great recent debut, Say Less. Only a handful of tickets still remain for tonight’s show, so if you’ve been procrastinating and you’re a fan of relevant, modern hip hop, we’d suggest grabbing them here ASAP!

Drake, Migos, and Roy Woods will perform tonight, Sept. 18 at Bridgestone Arena. The show is all ages, begins at 7 p.m. (doors at 5:30 p.m.), and tickets are available to purchase for $49.50-179.50.

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[TICKET GIVEAWAY] Andrew W.K. w/ Birdcloud | Sept. 25 @ The Basement East

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Celebrating his first proper full-length in more than a decade, this year’s excellent return to form You’re Not Alone, hard rocking positive party god turned larger-than-life personality Andrew W.K. returns to Nashville Sept. 25 to headline The Basement East, along with edgy local duo Birdcloud. Now nearly 20 years since first breaking into the mainstream, W.K. is a figure you’ve almost inevitably encountered, whether for his music or other work, but if, somehow, you’ve never seen the spectacle that is his live show, it should be an essential outing for longtime fans and newcomers to his anthemic, raucous sound alike. Tickets to Andrew’s latest Nashville stop are still available here, but we’re also excited to announce that we’re giving away a pair of tickets to one lucky fan. Read on for more about the show, and enter for a chance to win below!

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[REMINDER] Catch Arthur Buck (Joseph Arthur & Peter Buck) w/ Matthew Ryan | TONIGHT @ The Basement East

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A new supergroup of sorts, featuring beloved singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur, and R.E.M. guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Peter Buck, alt rock newcomers Arthur Buck came together quickly last fall after a chance meeting in Mexico turned into an impromptu jam, and, eventually, an album, which the duo will bring to life on the road for the first time with full band accompaniment. Whether your fans of either, both, or neither, Arthur Buck is definitely a project that stands on its own, boasting adventurous electronics and samples, layered instrumentation, and timely, topical lyrics. The group will play Nashville for the first time tonight, Sept. 16 at The Basement East with longtime alt-country favorite Matthew Ryan, and tickets are available here! Read on for more about the show.

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