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Orion Amphitheater opens tonight with First Waltz

HUNTSVILLE — Upon first impression, the Orion Amphitheater is a song within itself.

Standing outside the gates this bright, sunny morning, you can imagine the sound of musicians tuning their instruments and the squawk of feedback coming from the stage for the first time tonight. You do not even have to close your eyes to envision the flickering of smartphones and feel the low rumble of electric anticipation from concertgoers.

And as we watch the loading docks bustling with activity in preparation for tonight’s premier festivities, Jackson Brown’s “The Loadout” rings loud:

“Now roll them cases out and lift them amps, haul them trusses down and get ‘em up them ramps, cause when it come to moving me, you guys are the champs…”

At 9 a.m., Ben Lovett, CEO of TVG Hospitality and Ryan Murphy, general manager of the Orion Amphitheater, joined Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong, City Music Officer Matt Mandrella and the Huntsville Music Board to  cut the ribbon on the long-awaited Orion Amphitheater at Apollo Park in the MidCity District.

“I was told all roads lead to Huntsville,” Lovett said in his opening remarks. “And it is pretty amazing to work with this city and a municipality that has leadership that is so forward thinking, that is so leaning into the culture and quality of life for its community, as well as the economic benefits.

“Huntsville is doing it properly and has planned it properly, doing just what they said they would so and from my experience, that is amazing.”

Battle repeated what Lovett said, “All roads lead to Huntsville and it’s a great way to talk about Huntsville and the road that led to this venue.”

He recalled in 2013, standing with Shane Davis, director of Urban and Economic Development for the city, on the site of a mall listed on DeadMalls.com. Davis said they needed an amphitheater to draw people to the area and to add to the quality of life in the city.

“Shane and the visionaries at the City all pulled it together to do what Huntsville always does: they came up with a plan of excellence to make sure as a community we reach for the stars. And that’s what we did right here,” Battle said.

“This is a structure made for music in the city of Huntsville, and it is second to none.

“Now the city passes the torch to the Venue Group because they are the ones who are really going to make this special, make it a state-of-the-art music facility known throughout the world – not just throughout Alabama, not just throughout the United States, but known throughout the world. This is where Huntsville reached for the stars and captured them.”

Huntsville also put its mark on the Amphitheater during the ceremony when a black helicopter roared overhead in the midst of the speeches.

“A black helicopter flying overhead is a very Huntsville thing,” Murphy said to a roar of laughter. “I expect we will deal with that a lot.

“I say all roads lead to this economic growth, this innovation, this culture, this technology, this ambition and aspiration. It can only be happening here, at this time, with this group of people. That is a very special thing that will not be replicated. In fact, it will be looked at as a model of many things to come and that is a really great thing to be proud of as a venue, as a team, as a city, as a community, as an artist, as a vendor, as someone who is just working here.

“We’ve raised the bar extremely high and that’s been extremely intentional. We will continue to hold that bar.”

Parking opens at 3:30 this afternoon and the gates to the Orion Amphitheater open at 5:30.

The Amphitheater’s First Waltz starts at 7 p.m. with Jason Isbell, Emmylou Harris and Waxahatchee.

Again, you can hear the lyrics …

“Tonight the people were so fine, They waited there in line, And when they got up on their feet, They made the show…”

But tonight when the music is swirling, be sure to look up from the stage tonight and the moon and the constellations will be your ceiling.

It is almost certain you will remember the  immortal words of the great Billie Holliday, “My heart beat like a hammer, My arms wound around you tight, And stars will fall on Alabama” tonight!

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