From Bristol to Memphis, Tennessean music reporter Juli Thanki and photographer Shelley Mays document their journey and highlight a few musical treasures they found along Tennessee’s music highway.
Shelley Mays/The Tennessean

Hundreds of thousands of music lovers come to Tennessee each year to experience the state’s inspired music festivals. These are 10 of the biggest and best.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Manchester

Since 2002, this four-day music and camping event has established itself as one of the premier music festivals in the country. Upwards of 80,000 fans make Bonnaroo their home for the weekend, and Paul McCartney, U2 and Jay-Z are among the giants who’ve headlined.

CMA Music Festival, Nashville

Formerly (and still colloquially) known as “Fan Fair,” the country music gathering has brought the genre’s biggest fans to Music City for 50 years, offering several days of nonstop all-star concerts, autograph signings and other attractions.


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Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, Franklin

This inspired two-day festival in Franklin counts Justin Timberlake among its producers. He just headlined the third annual event in 2017, joining a roster of past rock, pop and roots performers that included Willie Nelson, Eddie Vedder, Wilco, Weezer and Sheryl Crow.

Big Ears Festival, Knoxville

Experimental composers and avant-garde rockers share equal billing at the remarkably bold and progressive Big Ears, which has been held in Knoxville for nearly a decade.

More: Music is ‘in the water’ in East Tennessee

Americana Music Festival, Nashville

The inclusive genre known as Americana — encompassing blues, folk, country, rock and more — welcomes hundreds of acts and thousands of fans to Nashville each year. Americana…