Orion Amphitheater redefines Huntsville’s- and Alabama’s- music scene

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Ryan Murphy was looking for the next chapter. Over the past decade, he has helped elevate the third market, St. Augustine Amphitheater, to a must-see venue for big names such as Robert Plant, Kendrick His Lamar, Slayer and Blondie. rice field.

Murphy was then presented with an interesting opportunity in Huntsville, Alabama. He pitched this idea that Huntsville is a smart Southern city on the rise, but without an amphitheater. Is he interested in running a new world class venue in this mature market?

Four years later, the Orion Amphitheater became a reality. This spring, Orion debuted a charming Coliseum-style look and a vibrant lineup of nearly 25 concerts in its first year. This includes superstars like Stevie Nicks, Dave Matthews with his band and Jack White who would otherwise never have come to Huntsville.

For decades, music fans living in Huntsville had to drive to Nashville, Atlanta, or Birmingham to see such shows. not anymore.

A few months later, Rolling Stone published a full-page feature on Huntsville’s live music scene in this September’s issue. Rolling Stone coverage wouldn’t be possible without the Orion Amphitheater. Orion Amphitheater would not be possible without Ryan Murphy.

Murphy is President and General Manager of Huntsville Venue Group, the local division of tvg (Venue Group) Hospitality (all lowercase), the London venture Huntsville City Hall that was contracted to develop and operate Orion.

Long before Orion’s spectacular mid-May opening celebration concert featuring Alabama-rooted stars like Jason Isbell and Brittany Howard, Murphy was in Huntsville. Finally got a local leader. Confirm the plan with the city council. Networking with local musicians and cultural figures. lay the foundation.

“It wasn’t just throwing something at the wall and seeing if it would stick,” Murphy now says. “This is a very passionate, focused and determined collaboration and dream. And you know, wow, we kind of did it.”

Oh, and if Murphy and tvg hadn’t been involved, Huntsville would still be building an amphitheater. It’s not Orion’s gem. With its classic look and cleverly designed seating for his 8,000-capacity venue, the seating isn’t bad either. Isbell even tweeted that the Orion Amphitheater is his favorite new venue.

At first, Murphy was unsure about moving his wife and two children out of the house and moving to Huntsville. However, he was keen to work with his tvg principal. Musician Ben Lovett is a founding member of British folk-pop stars Mumford & Sons. Mike Luba and Don Sullivan, producers of tours from the Grateful Dead to Chance the Rapper. Music industry veteran Graham Brown has booked artists like Willie Nelson and Ed Sheeran.

Murphy is persuaded to visit Huntsville. His family got into the car and drove over the mountains and past the sun-drenched Tennessee River to town. After they came here and met many locals involved in music and art, Murphy decided: So his wife and I decided to do it. “

A native of Florida, Murphy got into live music as a teenager, doing punk rock shows. He has also been in his share of bands. So it’s no surprise that he attributes his great Orion influence to those who helped push him forward. “The group of people I’m around have a very clear vision of how to elevate a place and make it like the community they aspire to be,” Murphy says.

When interviewed for a Rolling Stone article, Murphy hailed the local singer/songwriters, DIY rock, and new festival scene as the strengths of Huntsville’s music.As a result, those local scenes felt saw At a national level in a way that has never been done before. Orion also made sure to highlight Huntsville musicians, including alternative pop singer He Deqn Sue and keyboardist/producer Kelvin Wooten.

Year 1 numbers at Orion: According to Murphy, there were 25 ticketed concerts with about 109,000 tickets sold. Tickets for these concerts were bought by his fans in nine countries abroad, as well as in all states of the United States. About 50 perfect of his 2022 tickets sold were purchased by Alabama residents. But it is the other half, non-residents of Alabama, who make the economic impact even greater. Out-of-state attendees eat, shop, and stay local.

Orion in 2022 also hosted 14 free community events, from LGBTQ Pride to Hispanic Food Festivals to concerts featuring local female musicians.

Concert goals for next year’s venue include “attracting over 40 acts to perform on the Orion Stage in 2023.” They aim to increase the number of free community events to over 30.

The Orion Amphitheater, which seats about 8,000 people, is a city-owned facility like the Von Braun Center. Huntsville Venue Group receives a flat fee of approximately 5% for its services. Huntsville City Council approved the project with a budget of $40 million.

Murphy and his family live in Monte Sano. He became an avid hiker of the mountain’s trails. He’s also become a regular at his Gold Sprint Coffee and his Vertical House Records. His wife, Lauren Murphy, developed Hillfork Her Farmacy, a sustainable farming venture that frequents local farmers’ markets.

Since moving to Huntsville, Murphy has developed industry connections and friendships at Muscle Shoals, drawing inspiration from the area’s rich recorded music heritage. And he’s been impressed by new waves of Huntsville culture like Ashley Jackson’s Sluice Fest music events, and he’s also seeing Huntsville’s different cultural silos connect more often.

“What I love is,” says Murphy. You can do these things on a larger level, bring people together and bond in different ways. He acknowledges that local leaders, such as his Devyn Keith of Huntsville City Councilman, continue to push Orion to make him more than one for one kind of people. Discover a series of free community events that have been central to Orion’s mission from the beginning.

“Our mission was to expand the[music]ecosystem,” says Murphy. “I think we’ve been able to open it up a little bit, and I think people in Huntsville are thinking outside the box and thinking about what they can do. That’s how Huntsville changed Alabama.” I think that’s how we became serious players in a way that we’ve never seen before.”

what’s next? In 2023, HVG plans to open his new 350-capacity venue downtown. Called the Meridian Social Club, the project aims to make Huntsville as attractive to rising/cult-favorite touring acts as Orion did with their headliners. Some time ago, Murphy said: What’s really cool is that it’s always working in the background. “

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