I’ve been on a little bit of a spending bender, and it feels really good because much of it has gone to support local music venues. I am now the proud owner of a super cool trucker cap, bittersweet but wonderful T-shirt and two CDs that came with a fabulous takeout meal.

Real talk: Music venues are struggling. Even with pandemic relief funds, it’s a huge challenge, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to sustain staying closed for however long it ends up being.

Keep in mind that the square footage of some of the more intimate spaces won’t allow for enough attendees to make it worth while to host shows given the current reopening guidelines. And while those guidelines continue to be fluid, the harsh reality for the moment is that places like One Longfellow Square and Portland House of Music won’t be hosting live music anytime soon.

With this all in the forefront of my live-music-missing heart, I’ve been opening my wallet to do my part to support the venues I love. What are your favorite venues? Did you know that ones like One Longfellow Square, St. Lawrence Arts Center and Mayo Street Arts in Portland; Johnson Hall in Gardiner and Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath are all nonprofits? Those places sure would love a donation, and no amount is too small.

Then there are the places that you can throw dough at by purchasing some wonderful items and one heck of a sensational meal.

Portland House of Music T-shirt Photo by Aimsel Ponti

I’ll start with Portland House of Music, where I saw my last live show on March 7, and the joint was jumping with Gina & The Red Eye Flight Crew. News of the pandemic was out there but little did any of us know that night that the live music scene in Maine would come to a grinding halt just days after that show. And so it was without hesitation that I plunked down $25 and ordered a Lost Without Live Music T-shirt from PHOME. To view its entire line of merchandise, which includes a ton of T-shirts, tank tops, sweatshirts and even leggings, head to teespring.com/stores/phome and shop ’til you drop.

Chicken pot pie, veggie chili and CDs from Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield Photo by Aimsel Ponti

Next on my shopping list was Stone Mountain Arts Center. We’re spoiled here in Maine with so many stellar venues but this place will always top my list as it’s such a lovely renovated barn building with seats that all have terrific views and a pre-show dinner menu with gourmet creations whipped up by owner Carol Noonan. I’ve gone there so many times throughout the years, I’m like Norm from “Cheers” when I show up for a show.

A few weekends ago, Stone Mountain started offering curbside takeout, and I enthusiastically drove the hour and 15 minutes each way to get to 695 Dugway Road in Brownfield with a soundtrack that included a few choice Noonan tunes. Takeout is available on Fridays and Saturdays for the foreseeable future, just place your order by 2 p.m. on the day you’d like your meal. Noonan mixes up the menu every weekend, but it typically has about five or six options, including such enticing entrees as Simon and Garfunkel Chicken ($29 and yes, it’s flavored with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme), Irish Stroganoff ($31, made with lamb tenderloin) and SMAC Chili ($23, veggie or chicken). I got myself a Pub House Chicken Pot Pie ($29), my spouse the veggie chili and my birthday-celebrating friend the Pub House Veggie Pot Pie ($29).

Upon arrival, a mask-wearing staffer (in my case, Miriah Jones) will meet you in the parking lot and put your order in your car for you (in my case, the trunk). After dropping off my friend’s birthday meal (which she wholeheartedly loved), I made it back home and was pleased that my pot pie was still plenty warm enough to dive right in without hesitation. Noonan cooks as well as she sings, and every morsel was flavorful and hearty. She also isn’t shy when it comes to portion size, so I ate the second half of it for lunch the next day. My spouse, Tracy, also got two meals out of the chili that she said was packed with a huge variety of vegetables and beans and bursting with zippy flavor. What’s more, all orders come with free music and I was excited to find copies of Noonan’s “Waltzing for Dreamers” and her band Knots and Crosses’ “There Was a Time.” Sweet! Head to stonemountainartscenter.com/ArtsCenter/take-out-menu.html for all of the ordering info or call (207) 935-7292 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Friday or Saturday.

Modeling the Big Babe’s trucker cap. Selfie by Aimsel Ponti

Last is Big Babe’s Tavern in South Portland. The bar, restaurant and music venue, located at 60 Ocean St., had only been open for about two months before having to shut down. It recently got into the curbside game, and on weekends you can order food, beer and mixed cocktails. You can also pick up some swag from its new line of merchandise, which includes a T-shirt, baseball-style shirt, hoodie and a couple of different hats, including the stylish, adjustable trucker cap that I bought the other day ($30). I called ahead and owner Ginger Cote met me outside (we were both wearing masks), and now it’s my new favorite fashion statement with a Maine license plate emblem that says BABE’s. Head to bigbabestavern.com to see the menu and merchandise list and then call (207) 888-9005 to place your order.


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