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By Anne Steele July 24, 2022 

Adam Cantrell is used to driving two or three hours to see a concert.

The 39-year-old live music fan has lived in Huntsville, Ala., his entire life. He has driven to Birmingham, Atlanta and Nashville—just far enough to warrant an overnight stay.

Now the big-name acts are coming to him. He recently saw Kenny Chesney and Dierks Bentley right in Huntsville at the new Orion Amphitheater, and said he plans to see Chris Stapleton there later this month. He might be able to see six shows there for the price of one show further away, he said.

“If you wanted to see one of those top artists, you were gonna have to travel,” said Mr. Cantrell, who operates a forklift for Costco. “Huntsville was just not attracting those kinds of acts.”

Over three days, the new venue featured performances by Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Mavis Staples, Brittany Howard, Emmylou Harris, Drive-By Truckers, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, and Waxahatchee, plus local Huntsville talent such as Translee and Deqn Sue & Kelvin Wooten.

Mavis Staples Addressing Crowd from stage at the orion amphitheater

“The only way a venue like this happens is when you’ve got all the right cooks in the kitchen — people with their hearts in the right place,” White told Rolling Stone backstage. “It’s not about money. It’s not about capitalism. It’s about doing it for the right reasons.”

The Orion Amphitheater Aerial Image

Huntsville has long been associated with its defense and aeronautics work at places like Redstone Arsenal and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, hence the amphitheater’s stargazing name. More recently, the city has been going through a cultural renaissance and construction boom as Alabama’s fastest growing city. For every new hotel, restaurant, and retail store popping up, there’s a construction crane hovering over another development site. The Orion is a bonus on top of it all.

Huntsville Community Drumline Drummer

“Building the Orion may seem random to people who have never been to Huntsville before,” says Ben Lovett, co-founder and keyboardist for Mumford & Sons who also serves as CEO of London-based venue development group TVG Hospitality. “But, when my band traveled to places that a lot of people would consider ‘random,’ we found that the most beautiful people and amazing examples of humanity exist in those places.”

Read full article on Rolling Stone

Photo credit: Josh Weichman