For anyone in an “old town road” kind of mood, something that seems poised to last the summer, the Stone Mountain Arts Center in tiny Brownfield is the place. The venue sites on a dirty road near the New Hampshire border in the foothills of the White Mountains and offers year-round entertainment, food and drink at various price points.

Most visitors will be arriving by car rather than horse to reach the 200-seat timber-frame venue, but GPS-based apps won’t likely work either way. To make the trek, it’s best to follow the center’s website, where there are detailed directions from points north, south, east and west — and the music hall’s husband-wife owners, singer-songwriter Carol Noonan and commercial fishing net builder Jeff Flagg, ask that you drive “slowly, responsibly and quietly.”

“The best thing about the summer is that new people from all over New England and beyond discover us for the first time,” Noonan said. “We love that.”

The center, tucked in the woods, hosts shows all year around, but attracts its biggest names in the summer, Noonan said. This year, Natalie Merchant, known to many as the singer in the ’80s band 10,000 Maniacs, is performing there for the first time on July 25. Grammy-winning bluesman Keb Mo’ (performing June 15), Nashville folk trio The Wood Brothers (July 22) and Indigo Girl Amy Ray (July 24) are returning.

“(J. Geils’) Peter Wolf, Pat Metheney and, on a personal note, my old band Knots and Crosses will be doing reunion shows, for those of your readers who might remember when,” Noonan said.

Musicians come back to play not despite the center’s remote and in some ways primitive conditions — low on amenities and high on what many 21st Century folk from more populated areas might consider inconveniences — but maybe because of them.


Mary Chapin Carpenter recommends it, leaving Noonan and Flagg a note for their website: “If you have the chance to play at Stone Mountain Arts Center, you are one lucky musician.”

Summer visitors are unlikely to find snow, although there was plenty one April evening this year. “Last night, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn were here — It snowed, and we had to plow and sand to get them here and get them out,” Noonan said.

“During the show the audience was treated to this amazing duo with a giant window backdrop, with colored lights on the trees as the snow fell. Bela repeatedly looked out the window and played a snowy riff to go along with the falling snow. I hate the word ‘magical,’ but that is what it was! I think we have those moments a lot.”

There aren’t many places to eat near by, but Stone Mountain itself offers dinner, though they don’t take credit cards for that, so bring cash or checks. There’s limited lodging in Brownfield and in nearby towns, in some cases with shuttle services to the show.

Daphne Howland is a freelance writer living in Portland.

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