Brandi Saves Pilgrimage

The Park at Harlinsdale Farm is a historical landmark. Located outside Franklin, TN, thousands of Union and Confederate forces clashed nearby toward the end of America’s bloodiest war. Midnight Sun, a world champion Tennessee Walking Horse, called the place home. These magnificent rolling hills, white fences, and historic buildings loom quietly across the street from the original Magic Chef factory. The place serves an important role in the Nashvillian ethos. Volunteers. US History. Music City.

Four years ago, the Pilgrimage Music Festival began, founded by Brandt Wood, Kevin Griffin (lead singer and guitarist for Better than Ezra, admit it, you still sing Good when it blares on the radio) and Michael Whalen. I went for the first time last year. The epic line up ranks high on my list of favorite concerts. Timberlake (Chris Stapleton crashed his party). Eddie Vedder. The Avett Brothers. Ryan Adams. Walk the Moon. Amanda Shires.

Eddie Sans Pearl Jam

For me (in my advancing years), this is a near perfect music festival at one of the most beautiful spots in the United States. Instead of driving, you can kayak in on the Harpeth River. Is it perfect? No. The event’s logistics have been a challenge, especially with parking, water stations, and food lines. But I like that the city of Franklin kicks the fifteen thousand concert goers out by 8.30 pm. There is no camping. No after party. This is an old person’s festival where I can take my kid along for the ride.

For me (in my advancing years), this is a near perfect music festival at one of the most beautiful spots in the United States. Instead of driving, you can kayak in on the Harpeth River. Is it perfect? No. The event’s logistics have been a challenge, especially with parking, water stations, and food lines. But I like that the city of Franklin kicks the fifteen thousand concert goers out by 8.30 pm. There is no camping. No after party. This is an old person’s festival where I can take my kid along for the ride.

When the tickets went on sale this year, I never hesitated, pulling the trigger immediately. The announced line-up more than met my expectation. Counting Crows. Dawes. Lionel Ritchie. Jack White. Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds. Chris Stapleton (with the expectation that Justin would be back for revenge).

And Brandi Carlile. I have never been able to catch her live. Missed her in Chicago. St. Louis. A cave concert two hours away. Of all the artists, I was most excited to see her. With the exception of Jack White, the rest I’ve seen. That being said, I’m pretty sure I ran into Jack White at Puckett’s Grocery in downtown Franklin eating cherry cobbler awhile back. If not, I met his doppelgänger.

As the event approached, I tried to will away the showers. Rain loomed in the forecast. This is the risk of an outdoor festival. I just wasn’t expecting what came next. During the Counting Crows set, Adam Duritz stops the show and says you’re going to get an evacuation notice. Storms are on the way. After a few jeers, I loved his response, “Hey, it’s not my lightning.”

“It’s not my lightning!” Adam Duritz

So, we sought shelter. Thinking this would only be a short storm stop in the action, we decided to hang out at the local gas station across the street, which became the site for an incredible party. Sadly, the heavens would open for the next three days, dropping eight plus inches of rain. I love social media. Trolls live here. The comments were fairly epic. This is a rain or shine event! It’s only a mist! Give me Hozier! Lionel Ritchie can go all night long! This light rain turned into a deluge over the historic park. I don’t blame the organizers for cancelling. Noah and his ark wasn’t on the lineup. I also understand ticket holder’s frustration. There would be no epic guitar duels between Dave and Tim. I’d never see the Counting Crows finish their set (twenty-five years and still going). Nor, would I experience the greatest guitarist of an age, or his evil twin doppelgänger, take the stage. Lionel wouldn’t sing Tonight with that smooth, slick voice.

My kid was crushed. He had been waiting for weeks. The excitement had been building. I had prepared the life can be disappointing speech. It gets deployed more than it should these days. Then, his instagram feed lit up. Brandi Carlile had just woke up, realized the concert had been cancelled, and was determined to put on a show. She would play. And invite friends.

We watched.

And waited.

I checked the other artist’s pages. Dave and Tim only had the cancellation listed. Stapleton hadn’t posted for over a year. Geez, at least tweet out a song lyric now and then. One had to wonder how she’d pull this off with a few hours notice. Bridgestone was booked (Maroon 5). The Ryman Auditorium was open (Amy Shumer had cancelled) but the mother church requires a notice. There were other outdoor venues, all under water. Then, the announcement came. City Winery. “Quick, darling. Hurry!” The venue only holds less than 1400. My wife logged on, but the site had slowed to a crawl. When an artist of this type announces a show with short notice, the IT department isn’t prepared. Grant, the IT department is probably one person that helps out part time. Still, never host your business on a cheap web.com plan. Good hosting is important in life.

Here’s the play by play of the ordering chaos as it happened:

  • My wife logged on, this annoying tiny man walked across the page. We were number 307 in the queue.
  • I called. To my dismay, I couldn’t buy tickets over the phone or in person. Watching the slow little man was the only way. The eight bit pixel enraged me.
  • I tried logging in as well. Two devices are better than one.
  • Then, I grabbed my kid’s phone. Three phones in the queue are better than two. This is the fallacy of large numbers and the lottery in action. No, you should never play Powerball. Yet, I was determined. Buy more lottery tickets.
  • When the little man crossed the finish line, my wife managed to get into the site. We cheered. But the shopping cart wouldn’t put our order into the cart.
  • Sigh. Grumble. Curse words, all mine.
  • Tickets appeared in the cart. Cheers again. I’d get to hear The Story live. The brothers, her long time collaborates, would play. Hope came.
  • The site crashed.
  • More grumbles and choice words.
  • Brandi came back on instagram, telling everyone the site had challenges but no tickets had been sold. The trolls came out to play. You’ll lose fans.
  • We turned the car around and headed home. It might be easier to order in front of a real computer.
  • I fired the machine up and the little man waltzed all over my browser window.
  • The site timed out again. Reload the page.
  • Finally, the tickets were added to my wife’s account.
  • I hit submit.
  • Fingers crossed.
  • And then, my credit card invoiced.
  • Hooray.

When we arrived at City Winery, the line wrapped around the porch. Standing room only. Going to be a long night for these old legs.When we made our way inside, we stood six rows back.

My kid’s eyes lit up when she took the stage. She thanked everyone for coming, knowing it had been a long day. Despite what some of the trolls think, I was impressed she pulled off the set list.


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In a few short hours, pulling a few strings, she had created her own version of Pilgrimage with some of the best up and coming artists (and some older greats) going. The ladies ruled this night. They stepped up. Liz Langley. Ruby Amanda. Savannah Conley. Jade Bird. Kim Richey (Brandi’s long time idol). The Lone Bellow. Courtney Marie Andrews. And Anderson East. Between opening acts, set list, and special guest line-up, the show lasted four plus hours. If only she played until its 6am and I’m all messed up. Alas, I’m older now.

And to the troll who said she’d lose fans. Well, she made a twelve year old boy who plays the uke smile and understand that music has power. I’ll never forget that. In a way, I’m thankful the rains came. This concert was worth far more than the admission price.

So, I decided to use my refunded ticket funds to buy Brandi’s albums on Vinyl. I figure this was the least I could do. No sense in letting the trolls win.

Brandi, thank you for saving Pilgrimage. May you have the will to play forever.

Notes: