The Pilgrimage To Pilgrimage Festival: San Antonio Venue Gets In On The Festival Action

Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra performs during Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival in Franklin, Tenn., Sept. 25, 2021. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival)

Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival in Franklin, Tennessee, the two-day microcosm of Nashville’s elite music scene, has opened wide the swinging doors to Texas music through a new partnership with the soon-to-open Stable Hall in San Antonio. 

W. Brandt Wood is the bridge between brick-and-mortar and the ephemeral festival experience. 

He’s the principal in WoodHouse, the operating team behind Stable Hall, a 1,000-cap venue under development in the historic Pearl District of San Antonio. 

“Where is that connective tissue? And how does that create a year-round presence and music industry support? Because it does and they are very closely related. Inextricably related,” Wood said the day before the festival, which returned to 200-acre The Park at Harlinsdale Farm on Sept. 24-25.  Wood operates and manages Pilgrimage alongside partners Better Than Ezra frontman Kevin Griffin and Michael Whelan. 

The inaugural showcase dubbed “Pilgrimage to Pilgrimage” presented an opportunity to introduce and spotlight iconic Texas musicians at the festival, which historically celebrates the artists and music that came out of the region between Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans known as the Americana Music Triangle. 

Those set to perform on the festival’s Americana Music Triangle Experience stage were Texas favorites Garrett T. Capps, Santiago Jiménez Jr. (brother of Flaco Jiménez), Rosie Flores and The Peterson Brothers. Celebrating its eighth year in 2022, the Pilgrimage lineup included Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Jon Batiste, and The Avett Brothers among many others. 

Wood said he took inspiration from Austin City Limits Festival, which has longstanding venue relationships in the city.   

“One can beget the other,” Wood explained. “A club can beget a festival or a festival can beget a club. But they are related. Most festivals don’t have a club that bore them; and those that do are better for it because you already have an audience and a market where you build trust.”

Wood said there are efficiencies for a festival to partner with a like-minded venue from booking artists to reaching a new, broader fan base.  

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“There is so much music industry attention on festivals, because there are 60 bands here over the course of two days,” Wood explained. “The amount of effort and attention, passion and care that goes into booking a festival takes so much energy and people may not know this, but it is a year-long process.

“Those conversations with agents, managers and producers allow for parallel conversations with agents, managers and producers about brick-and-mortar booking.”

Veteran talent buyer Jay Sweet, who is nationally recognized for his role as executive producer for the Newport Folk Festival, has a hand in curating talent for both Pilgrimage and Stable Hall. 

“It’s going to be an exciting conversation when we start talking about festival acts and routing through Texas for this band or that band and if they are available for a residency or a night at Stable Hall,” Wood added. 

Based in Dallas, Texas, Wood has 35 years of experience in creating, developing and operating entertainment and hospitality venues and music festivals, including The Green Room, Gypsy Tea Room and Trees, host to a string of “famous and infamous” shows including Nirvana in November of 1991. 

Opening in September 2023, Stable Hall is being constructed in a former draft horse barn, which was built in 1894. Once completed, the venue will be a marquee music destination and showcase for national, regional and local talent. 

Programming will include national touring artists, regional talent from Texas, Mexico and the Americana Music Triangle, as well as a focus on San Antonio’s music scene.

Wood said there are other similarities between San Antonio and Pilgrimage’s home ground in Franklin. Both regions have strong musical roots but are often overshadowed by neighbors that are musical hotbeds including Austin and Nashville. 

“You win folks over with both your venues and your festivals; and the industry in the same way,” Wood offered. “As long as we’re producing a good festival here and delivering a good experience to the fans, it does culminate with the relationships you need to have; the trust and transparency with partners that you need to book a music venue. They are very symbiotic.”