Organizers reveal Pilgrimage headliners. Dave Matthews Band, Maren Morris, Black Keys among top billed artists.

Middle Tennessee music fans are seeing a light on the horizon this week, as the lineup for Franklin’s Pilgrimage Festival, which returns to Harlinsdale Farm on Sept. 25-26 was revealed.

Headliners will include Dave Matthews Band, Maren Morris, the Black Keys and Cage the Elephant.

Other announced artists are Khruangbin, Black Pumas, Amos Lee, Tanya Tucker, Better than Ezra, Houndmouth, Tank & the Bangas, Valerie June, JD McPherson, Jamestown Revival, Low Cut Connie, Robert Finley, Katie Pruitt, Morgan Wade, Larry Fleet, Harlem Gospel Travelers, Hailey Whitters, Dylan LeBlanc, Anna Vaus, Blessing Offor and Natalie Madigan.

A blind presale began Tuesday, with tickets on sale today. A general admission pass to the 2-days festival, including fees, is $215.

Founders Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra, Brandt Wood and Michael Whelan spoke with the Herald at its office in downtown Franklin on Tuesday, prior to the lineup announcement.

This year will be the festival’s sixth. Originally scheduled for last September, most music events, including the festival, were deferred at least a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whelan and Griffin acknowledged a national desire to return to live music shows, which they saw in presale numbers.

“I think that there is an appetite and a desire,” Whelan said.

“You most likely want to go see some live music and get out the house, get vaccinated, rub elbows and be with people,” Griffin said.

The founders expressed their excitement about their eclectic lineup and how people recognize the festival as somewhere to discover new artists.

Griffin described the process of curating musicians as sort of a Venn diagram with overlapping circles.

“If every artist has a different color, if they all overlap and make a beautiful purple; a deep purple would be the color of Pilgrimage.”

Of headliner Maren Morris, Grifin said, “She is that rare artist that not only has huge country success but pop success, and even EDM success.”

Whelan added, “She’s that artist that checks all the boxes for Pilgrimage. She’s really a perfect headliner for us.”

With artists such as Morris and Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys living nearby, Whelan and Griffin anticipate a few artist performances will include surprise guests, as has happened in the past.

For the Black Keys, Pilgrimage is their only scheduled show of the year for now.

Cage the Elephant returns in 2021 after first playing an energy-driven set during the festival’s inaugural year.

Dave Matthews had been scheduled to play with Tim Reynolds in 2018, when the festival was rained out, and had been scheduled again in 2020, though that lineup was never officially announced. He’s known for his eclectic instrumental style and devoted fan base.

Last year, after the festival had been rescheduled for 2021, Whelan said that he ran into Matthews at a small gathering.

“He said, ‘Man, I’m looking forward to finally getting the chance to play Pilgrimage, because, look, the third time’s going to be the charm,’” Whelan said.

New this year is extended hours for the festival on Saturday night, when music will go until 10 p.m. Previously, the city has regulated the festival to end at 8:30 on both nights.

What do the Pilgrimage founders want people to know for this fall?

“You’ve got what is considered by music fans around the country and the world, you’ve got one of the best music festivals in the country in your backyard,” Griffin said.

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