A sea of fans rose to their feet and cheered as Band of Horses, the opening act for the Avett Brothers at the new Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, took the stage on the venue’s opening night last Friday.
The two groups played the sold-out opening concert to an amphitheater packed to its capacity of 7,470. A staff of more than 350 people worked to make opening night run smoothly.
A few dozen fans arrived hours before the venue opened, some lining up as early as noon to await the gates opening at 6:30 p.m., eager to be the first ones to enter the venue.
James Fowler, president of the Student Government Association, and Deputy Chief of Staff Peyton Falkenburg took the stage first to welcome attendees to the concert, which was put on with the collaboration of the Ferguson Center staff, the SGA and Birmingham-based Red Mountain Entertainment.
Fowler announced that ticket sales for the event raised $20,000 for student scholarships.
When Band of Horses took the stage, lead singer Ben Bridwell acknowledged the crowd’s excitement before the group began playing around 8 p.m.
“Welcome. First night, huh? Let’s break this thing in.”
The band opened with “Ode to LRC” from their second album, “Cease to Begin,” followed by many of their more well-known songs like “Is There A Ghost” and “No One’s Gonna Love You,” closing with “The Funeral.”
“It’s the first time we’ve ever had the honor of being able to say we played first at anything really… especially someplace that gorgeous and pristine. It’s kind of overwhelming,” Bridwell said in a video interview on the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater’s Facebook page.
At 9:20 the Avett Brothers, the night’s headliners, opened with “Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise,” immediately saying they were happy to return to Tuscaloosa, having played here previously at The Jupiter, now The Dixie on the Strip.
Christin Clevenger, a junior majoring in telecommunication and film who attended Friday’s show, saw the Avett Brothers’ performance at The Jupiter in August 2007.
“The Avett Brothers consistently put on an awesome show,” she said. “They gave it their all, and they’re always true to who they are when they perform.”
The outdoor amphitheater was the perfect place for the Avett Brothers to perform because of its atmosphere and a friendly staff who made everything run smoothly, Clevenger said, who didn’t have a single complaint about Friday’s show.
“It was a great show because everyone in the crowd just seemed really happy and excited to be there,” she said. “The amphitheater was beautiful, and, even though it was sold out, it still seemed really spacious. I don’t think there was a bad seat in the house.”
Clevenger said another benefit is that the venue is close to many downtown bars and restaurants, so it attracts people to not only the amphitheater itself, but also the city of Tuscaloosa.
“It’s good to have people here for something other than football,” she said. “Now we don’t have to go to Birmingham to see artists and shows like this.”
Mikee Mosley, a freshman majoring in secondary education, attended the concert without ever having listened to music by either group.
“My friends were going, and I just really enjoy live music,” he said. “The Avett Brothers played a great show.”
Mosley and his friends had general admission tickets, so they stood in the lower bowl instead of having assigned seats farther up.
“We were pretty damn close to the stage, considering we didn’t get there until 8, right before Band of Horses started,” he said.
The entire crowd became increasingly excited as the night wore on, until the Avett Brothers closed their set with “I And Love And You.” When they left the stage, a chant of “One more song” began until the group returned for a three-song encore to end the night.
“I didn’t hear a single negative thing about the entire night,” Mosley said. “[The amphitheater] is going to benefit the town, and it’s only going to get better from here.”
The second concert of opening weekend was Patti LaBelle and the O’Jays, who performed on Saturday night.
There are currently four more acts booked at the amphitheater through August. For more information about the venue and upcoming events, visit tuscaloosaamphitheater.com.