There is nothing, including exhaustion, that a little TLC can’t cure (or at least mitigate): and that is exactly what one receives at the Stone Mountain Arts Center. Carol Noonan and her gang know how to do it right, how to make visiting musicians feel like welcome guests. Carol knows all about the difficulties of the road, because she has travelled it herself, she knows that the lead up to the show and how the day unfolds can make all the difference in a good or bad performance, in a good or bad experience for both band and audience. So she has created this beautiful little oasis tucked away in the Maine woods, where bands can hang out and listen to vinyl, play pool, work on puzzles and eat and eat and eat and eat. She has also done it up right for the audience, who need to drive from many miles around to attend concerts here; it’s a beautiful little venue with excellent food and a very happy and content band on-stage.
I attempted to find some water nearby, but the only place within walking distance was a small mountain pond created by an ancient beaver damn. I had fantasies of some large creature living down at the bottom of a deep forgotten hole, just waiting for me to come along, but the reality was that it was just a beaver pond probably too shallow for anything to live through the winter. I did manage to sink up to my knees in a bog at the side of the pond.
I can’t really say what kind of a show we had. It was definitely a little unfocussed and I struggled to lock onto something or someone. Week seven (or is it eight?) of this very long summer tour is definitely taking its toll…the body at 52 does not recover as quickly as the body at 25. But there were a few in attendance who have seen us three or four times at this venue and they felt this was the best show they had seen….so who knows….I’ll happily go with their assessment and stumble towards our much needed day off.
(Jason Lent has forsaken the island paradise of Hawaii to follow us around for a few months. I have happily placed the tour diary in his capable hands. It should bring a new perspective to our ramblings.)
All the world’s antiques have been shipped to Vermont. Coming off a late night drive from Buffalo and a short nap in Albany, I awoke envisioning four open lanes pointing straight to the horizon, a Dunkin Donuts coffee break every 56 miles, and track seven from Renmin Park blasting with the windows down. Instead, today’s drive was a torturous crawl through rain soaked Vermont on twisting one-lane roads with antique stores spaced every few hundred feet. Crossing into New Hampshire, the rain turned to blowing snow and I was traversing mountain passes and groping for a phone signal to check my GPS.
Walking into the Stone Mountain Arts Center, the white-knuckle ride over the last mountain immediately dissipated. Some venues manage to put the artist at ease and others are a treat for the ticket holders. This place nails the music experience for both. A rustic wood room with a high peaked ceiling and exposed log beams gives the music enough room to breathe while the floor to ceiling glass windows behind the stage give a glimpse at the stunning scenery outside. Bands are treated to an extensive collection of vinyl, a pool table and instruments to tinker with before taking the intimate stage. Oh, and the food and staff are superb as well.
The band entered as looped sounds from Renmin Park danced through the speakers, which faded into “A Few Bags of Grain” off the new album. It set the mood of the night perfectly and was a wicked opening number. The audience was dialed in from the drop of the puck and stayed on the same page as the band throughout. It became a shared experience where the surroundings made it impossible not to enjoy the night. The set list was diverse and a shimmering “Escape Is So Simple” left enough space between the notes to hear the snow falling outside. A beautiful night.