Down East 2013 ©
Carol Noonan will be the first to tell you that Stone Mountain Arts Center — the rustic music hall she and her husband, Jeff Flagg, opened in their Brownfield backyard in 2006 — is a little off the beaten path. Located down a dirt road in the rolling hills of western Maine, Stone Mountain Arts Center is, as its T-shirts proudly
proclaim, “SMAC in the middle of nowhere.”
But when the lights go down and the music starts up, middle-of-nowhere Brownfield feels like the center of a small, special universe: an out-of-the-way, out-of-this-world venue that brings top performers and their enthusiastic audiences closer to what matters most — namely, the music. “If you have the chance to play at Stone Mountain Arts Center,” says singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter, “you are one lucky musician.”
“People who play music for the right reasons want to play in a place like this, a smaller place where the people are up close and are only there to hear you play music,” adds guitarist Duke Levine, a member of Carpenter’s band and a Stone Mountain regular. With just two hundred seats, Stone Mountain is both small and expansive, thanks to its timber-frame cathedral ceiling and soaring stage windows that offer up views of the surrounding woods and hills. And this small place attracts some very big names. In 2008, Noonan booked close to a hundred acts, including singer-songwriters like Lucinda Williams, Richard Thompson, and John Hiatt; bluegrass and country legends like Ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs, and Suzy Bogguss; comedians like Paula Poundstone and the Smothers Brothers; and national treasures like Mavis Staples and the Neville Brothers.
“It’s a little paradise,” says Mike Timmins, leader of the alternative rock band the Cowboy Junkies. “I don’t think that we have ever been treated as well, or come across a venue as perfectly tuned to the touring musicians’ sensibilities.”
Noonan’s ear is particularly well attuned because she knows all about the touring life. First as a member of the Boston folk-rock group Knots and Crosses, and then as a Portland-based solo artist who recorded three highly regarded albums for Rounder Records, Noonan has done her time on the road. “And,” she says, with one of her warm, throaty chuckles, “the road sucks.”
So Noonan and Flagg designed Stone Mountain as a respite for road-weary musicians. “We kill them with good food and hospitality, and it makes them feel like they’re home,” says Noonan. Before a band or a performer arrives, Noonan is on the phone with their manager, asking, “What do they like to eat? What would make them happy?” Country star Marty Stuart and his band got a big pork roast and mashed potatoes, but everyone gets a homemade cake bearing the legend “Maine Loves [band name here].”
If You Go
Stone Mountain Arts,
695 Dug Way Rd., Brownfield.
www.stonemountain  artscenter.com