Author: Emily Phillips
Huntsville’s most highly anticipated venue is finally open.
The Orion Amphitheater opened its doors earlier this month with The First Waltz, an event that brought together world-renowned names and home-grown artists in one unbelievable setting. The amphitheater, the result of a partnership between the City of Huntsville and Huntsville Venue Group, truly has what it takes to become North Alabama’s premier music destination. Read on for more.
Top talent comes to Huntsville
The First Waltz was a three-day, star-studded festival including many of Alabama’s biggest names in music. The event, which took place May 13-15, was a true celebration of the state’s impact on the music industry. On Friday and Saturday, fans got to enjoy the music of:
- Jason Isbell + The 400 Unit
- Emmylou Harris
- St. Paul and the Broken Bones
- Mavis Staples
- John Paul White
- Brittany Howard
- Drive-By Truckers
On Sunday, hosts Dante Pride and Meoldy Shari welcomed:
- The Aeolians of Oakwood University
- Deqn Sue & Kelvin Wooten
- Huntsville Community Drum Line
- Element XI
- The N.E.I.G.H.B.O.R.S.
The stars weren’t just onstage at The First Waltz, though. At the amphitheater’s ribbon cutting, Ben Lovett—Huntsville Venue Group CEO and a founding member of Mumford and Sons—said that they were expecting around 60 individuals representing the music industry in Los Angeles and around the world to converge in Huntsville that weekend.
The First Waltz, though, was just the beginning. The 8,000-seat amphitheater has already drawn top talent to the area, including a sold out Dave Matthews Band show, their first ever Huntsville performance. This summer’s lineup is filled with names like
- Kenny Chesney
- Widespread Panic
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
- Dierks Bentley
- The Black Crowes
- Old Crow Medicine Show
- Keith Sweat
- Hank Williams, Jr.
- Josh Groban
- Chris Stapleton
- Jack White
- The Black Keys
- Styx + REO Speedwagon
- My Morning Jacket
- Earth, Wind + Fire
- Luke Bryan
Not just a venue, but a destination
Lovett said his goal was to make hospitality paramount at the Orion.
“Most venues in North America and farther afield think of hospitality as an afterthought. We want to make sure that this could possibly be your favorite drink that you’ve had, alongside your favorite band.”Ben Lovett, CEO, Huntsville Venue Group
As you walk the concourse at Orion, you’ll find unique easter eggs hidden in the names of the venue’s many bars. Consider “Murphy’s Law,” a whisky bar that’s an ode to Orion General Manager Ryan Murphy, or “Isadora’s,” the wine bar named after Lovett’s daughter. You’ll also find:
- Madkin + Weeden, race car-themed bars on either side of the stage that get their names from the two mountains on Redstone Arsenal
- El Cohete, where you’ll find street tacos + tequila and mezcal-based cocktails
- The Distillery, the spot for vodka and gin lovers
- Hop House Co., the best place to find a curated lineup of beers from Alabama and around the world
- Teal Monkey, a rum-centric bar that brings a tropical vibe to the Rocket City
- Carbon, a fun seltzer bar filled to the brim with all things bubbly
- Sky Bar, a full bar on the upper concourse where you can grab a drink without missing any of the show
Plus, the Orion is ushering in a new tradition of sustainability through their partnership with TURN. When you get your drink from any of the venue’s bars, you’ll notice that it’s in a reusable TURN cup. Instead of throwing your cup away after you finish your drink, you’ll instead drop it into a receptacle. From there, it’s washed, sanitized and prepared to be reused up to 100 times, ultimately preventing half a million single-use plastic cups from ending up in landfills each year.
The jewel of MidCity
The Orion Amphitheater has something to offer for everyone, whether or not you’ve got a ticket to see a show.
The amphitheater is the crowning achievement of Huntsville’s MidCity District, the burgeoning mixed-use district that sits on the previous site of Madison Square Mall. In addition to top talent onstage, you’ll find hours of entertainment right outside the venue’s gates. Consider a visit to Apollo Park, where you’ll find local food trucks, a lake system, walking trails and scheduled programming.
There’s also Apollo South, the best spot to grab a drink and a bite both before and after your show. You can enjoy eats from local food trucks under the dome at Apollo South or bring them into the amphitheater with you—just make sure to check out the venue’s Facebook and Instagram before your event to get the full schedule and food truck lineup, since it changes for each show. Recent events have featured local faves like Hippea Camper, 2 Chicks, Happi Pappi and more.
As for the rest of the venue…you just have to see it. The Orion Amphitheater expertly blends traditional architecture with Rocket City touches, like the art from local makers that lines the walls of the concourse, to create an environment that feels world-class but steeped in hometown charm.
Grab your ticket now to one of this summer’s concerts at the Orion.