My husband, Kyle, and I love singer/songwriter Chris Young. We know all his lyrics, we’ve downloaded all his songs, and we’ve followed him to a few shows across the country. So when we found out he was playing at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre at Encore Park in Alpharetta—and it was within driving distance—we decided to make a long weekend vacation out of it.
We had some time to spare and were looking forward to leisurely exploration, so we sought advice on what to do first. Friends in North Atlanta clued us in to a cool entertainment district close to downtown Alpharetta called Avalon. We made it to town just in time to catch one of their special events—at the end of every workweek from April to October, the community hosts Avalon Nights Live on the Plaza lawn. A different artist or band performs each week—who knows, perhaps the next Chris Young—most of the time, resulting in the crowd dancing and singing along to live music. It’s a grand time with the locals, listening to home-grown music, sipping on cocktails, and we loved every second. We grabbed dinner and margaritas at The El Felix afterward, excited to kick off a toe-tapping weekend.
We’d seen flyers at Avalon for a songwriters’ festival happening the weekend we were in town. On Saturday, we went to the Wire & Wood Alpharetta Songwriters Festival in downtown Alpharetta. Wire & Wood is special because, although there were big names like Edwin McCain and Elizabeth Cook, the whole point is for the songwriters to play their original songs—some never heard before and some written for other artists that are popular on the radio. The concerts last for two days on multiple stages throughout downtown Alpharetta.
The festival topped our expectations by far. We were expecting stages in parks or established music venues, but Alpharetta leveled it up by blocking off side streets branching from downtown’s Main Street and converting them all into outdoor concert stages. We partied with locals on the roads between art galleries and restaurants. We listened to some never-before-heard songs along with familiar tunes from both established songwriters and the hottest additions to metro Atlanta’s music roster. It was so awesome, we wound up downloading music from the local musicians as we learned about them.
The next day, we decided to get dinner at a more subdued spot. We’d driven past a jazz club and restaurant on the way to Wire & Wood and decided it would be the perfect place to unwind. The Velvet Note is an award-winning jazz venue with a combination of open mics and live shows most every Thursday through Sunday. We sank into our plush, comfy chairs and held hands in deep purple light while a jazz pianist tickled away on the venue’s classic 1924 baby grand piano. Our seats in the intimate “living room” venue were right next to the stage—we could see every note as the pianist tumbled across the keys. When the player finished, we raised our glasses of wine, saying cheers to the talent and to a successful day.
The big show
It was finally the day of Chris Young’s performance, and we were ecstatic. We had seats out on the lawn so we could see the entire Ameris Bank Amphitheatre at Encore Park while we enjoyed the music. The state-of-the-art amphitheater features a covered main stage and lower-level seating tucked into an expansive 45 acres of manicured lawn and woods. Gates opened an hour before the show, so we were able to find a shady spot under a copse of trees where we could picnic with food and drinks from the concession stands.
As we rocked out to “I’m Comin’ Over,” we caught each other’s eye and began to laugh. We both knew all the words and turned into a two-person show, dancing and singing along like we were up on stage with Chris himself. That’s how it was for the rest of the night—enjoying each other’s company as much as the band on stage.
The next day, on our drive home, Kyle set the mix to what we’d downloaded from the Wire & Wood Songwriters Festival. We may have come to town for another Chris Young experience, but what we found in addition to that was a vibrant music scene, full of exciting new talent and fresh music from popular artists. We had a great time jamming along to one of our favorites—and also finding new artists to love and follow.