Offbeat destinations for live music in New England

Dan Blakeslee and the Calabash Club played the Dream Away Lodge in Becket last month.
Dan Blakeslee and the Calabash Club played the Dream Away Lodge in Becket last month.

From Tanglewood in the Berkshires to Newport, R.I., for its jazz and folk festivals, there are plenty of well-worn roads that lead to live music in New England. With summer in full swing, we look at some offbeat destinations that might not be on your radar but are worth the trip, for both the music and the scene you’ll find there.

STONE MOUNTAIN ARTS CENTER When the GPS loses its signal — and trust me, it will at some point — take heart that you’re probably on the right road to this cultural oasis in the foothills of the White Mountains in Brownfield, Maine. Musician Carol Noonan opened Stone Mountain, a converted barn aglow with white lights and painted birch trees, in 2006. The intimacy of the space — it holds just 200 seats — belies the caliber of artists Noonan attracts, from folk (Judy Collins) and R&B (Neville Brothers) to bluegrass (Ralph Stanley) and world (Ladysmith Black Mambazo). Come early for dinner.

Upcoming highlights: gospel-soul sister Mavis Staples (July 13), singer-songwriters Mary Chapin Carpenter and Marc Cohn (July 23), country rabblerousers the Mavericks (Aug. 15), and sophisticated British rocker Nick Lowe (Aug. 18). 695 Dugway Road, 207-935-7292,


THE MONTAGUE BOOKMILL Its tag-line isn’t kidding: “Books you don’t need in a place you can’t find.” But when you do come across this charming spot in Montague, give yourself an afternoon and evening to linger here. Perched on the banks of the Sawmill River, not far from Northampton and Amherst, this used bookstore is housed in an old gristmill that makes for a dramatic spot to sit and let your mind wander. It’s a one-stop experience: a cafe and more formal restaurant will feed you, and on select evenings, performers of various genres entertain in a room full of armchairs and couches. Recent bookings have included indie-folk songwriter Diane Cluck, father-son Celtic duo Ed and Neil Pearlman, and avant jazz ensemble Jeremy Udden’s French Connection.

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Upcoming highlights: art-rock ensemble the True Jacqueline (July 12) and Dinosaur Jr. frontman J. Mascis (July 27). 440 Greenfield Road, 413-367-9206,

WESTERLY TOWN BEACH Sure, it’s perfect for sun and sandcastles, but a town beach isn’t the first place you think of for good music. Westerly, R.I., about an hour drive south of Providence, has it covered with its annual summer music series called Tunes on the Dunes. The free concerts, which start at 6 p.m., are divided into two categories: Blues on the Beach on Wednesdays and Monday night jam sessions that book an even broader range of music.

Upcoming highlights: Boston’s retro-soul revivalists Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents (July 15), Sugar Ray and the Bluetones (July 31), former Moody Blues member Denny Laine (Aug. 5), and rock-funk band Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds (Aug. 12). 365 Atlantic Ave.

PRESCOTT PARK  As part of the long-running Prescott Park Arts Festival, the River House Restaurant Concert Series is as good as any excuse for a road trip in the middle of the week. Held Wednesday evenings in picturesque Prescott Park in Portsmouth, N.H., with the Piscataqua River looming in the distance, the series kicked off last week with English folk-rock pioneer Richard Thompson and continues through the start of September. Shows start at 7 p.m., and a donation of $8-$10 is suggested.


Upcoming highlights: country hell-raiser Justin Townes Earle (July 10), funky jazz outfit Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue (July 26), indie-pop darlings the Head & the Heart (July 31), and old-time revivalists Spirit Family Reunion (Aug. 28). 105 Marcy St., 603-436-2848,

Prescott Park Arts Festival
David Wax Museum got the audience rocking last year at the Prescott Park Arts Festival in Portsmouth, N.H.

VERMONT JAZZ CENTER  More than just a venue, the Brattleboro center was founded in 1975 to preserve the genre’s traditions by hosting concerts, workshops, and weekly jam sessions. Its meticulous programming has featured everyone from vocalist Sheila Jordan to saxophonist Miguel Zeñón. Not much is planned for summer, but events will pick up again in the fall. In the meantime, the center’s annual summer jazz workshop will culminate in two concerts, Aug. 8-9, at the nearby Putney School, including a wide array of students collaborating with jazz luminaries such as Jordan and trumpeter Howard Brofsky.

74 Cotton Mill Hill No. 222, 802-254-9088,


BISTRO  Southern rockers, 1960s folk icons, jam bands, reggae legends, and tribute acts all share space on the lineup for this quirky and intimate music hall built in 1883 (and renovated in 2007) in Norfolk, Conn. With its wood interior intact, the venue seats 300, and its restaurant, which is open through Labor Day, puts a spin on New American cuisine with dishes such as lobster hushpuppies.

Upcoming highlights: Icelandic indie-rock musicians Lay Low, Sóley, and Svavar Knútur (July 20), ukulele-strumming singer-songwriter Jake Shima-bukuro (July 28), jazz-fusion master Chick Corea and the Vigil (Aug. 3), acoustic guitarists Chris Eldridge and Julian Lage (Aug. 14). 20 Greenwoods Road, 860-542-5531,


“In the middle of nowhere” is a common, and apt, description for this hidden gem tucked deep in the woods of Becket, at the edge of October Mountain State Forest. The 200-year-old farmhouse is awash in neon signs and ambience straight out of a David Lynch film. Chef Amy Loveless serves a lively summer menu, from barbecue brisket and Vietnamese-style fish to Mexican mole and shrimp remoulade. And the entertainment, which begins around 8:30 p.m., is just as adventurous.


Upcoming highlights: country-rocker Joe Fletcher (July 12), indie-folk duo Mike and Ruthy (Aug. 3), blood-and-guts troubadour Sean Rowe (Aug. 17), and guitar virtuoso Daniel Bachman (Aug. 22). 1342 County Road, 413-623-8725,

Bill Keane
Chick Corea is on the playlist this month for Infinity Music Hall (pictured) and Bistro in Norfolk, Conn.

CHAN’S FINE ORIENTAL DINING Everything you need to know about this Woonsocket, R.I., supper club is included in the URL for its website.

Time seems to have stopped at this endearingly old-school Chinese restaurant that touts its jazz and blues programming and a rather throwback description for its food.

Nonetheless, Chan’s has become a reliable place to see touring jazz musicians who don’t always come to the Boston area.

And if you feel like you’ve got a right to sing the blues, check out Chan’s open-mike night held the last Wednesday of every month.

Upcoming highlights: Luther “Guitar Jr.” John & the Magic Rockers (July 13), Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials (July 25), and Johnny A. (Aug. 23). 267 Main St., 401-765-1900,

PULASKI PARK  Billing itself as the “Polka Capital of New England,” Pulaski Park in Three Rivers is truly an experience in its own league, with a focus on preserving Polish traditions. (Polka and pierogis and dancing, anyone?)

Set up as picnic-style gatherings, the afternoon concerts feature some of the genre’s biggest names (yes, polka has those) and other beloved acts, not to mention a massive dance floor for some fancy footwork. The free shows run from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m., rain or shine.

Upcoming highlights: Eddie Forman Orchestra (July 7 and Sept. 2), Stephanie and Her Honky Band (Aug. 11), Jimmy Sturr and His Orchestra (Sept. 8), and Paul Brozek & the Polka Jamboree (Sept. 15). 40 Belch-ertown St.,

James Reed is a staff music critic. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJamesReed.