Joni Mitchell Opens 1st Day of Pop Festival But Departs Abruptly

by Jack LLoyd
Philadelphia Inquirer
August 2, 1969

ATLANTIC CITY, Aug. 1. - Folk singer Joni Mitchell had them in the palm of her hand. More than 25,000 festive-minded youths were on hand Friday for the opening session of the Atlantic City Pop Festival, and Joni Mitchell was beautiful. But she lost them. No, she gave them away. A little later in the evening the Iron Butterfly took hold of the same audience and never let go. And for a time it seemed the audience wasn't going to let go either. Then the Chambers brothers [sic] stepped up and did the same thing.

Until Joni's appearance, it had been mostly a day of hard driving rock sounds. Good sounds, but hard driving. Pulverizing.

And then along came Joni to take her place on the stage located in the winner's circle at the Atlantic City Race Track. But something was wrong. She was scheduled to appear for 40 minutes.

The way Joni started out, it could have been the high spot of the evening. But she appeared on stage for less than 15 minutes - long enough to sing four songs.

CLEAR AS A BELL

And that was a pity, because she sang them beautifully, and everyone seemed anxious for more of the same.

Her voice was clear as a bell with a sweetness that lilted gracefully from low note to high note.

Joni began with a big one. "Chelsea Morning." It was fine. A fine song, and a fine singer.

Next Joni sang "Cactus Flower" and midway through the number there was a sign of trouble. She interrupted her song to gently tell her audience, "I sang that verse twice and nobody noticed."

THAT WAS IT

She finished the song and sang two more. Then Joni left the stage. That was it.

Surprise.

Biff Rose, the master of ceremonies, moved over to a piano quickly and sang a number of his own. Rose was not among the scheduled performers.

Joni's abrupt departure was a disappointment, but it was only a mild damper on the festivities. There was simply too much music that followed.

CAME FROM EVERYWHERE

It all began around 3 P.M. The festival crowd came from everywhere.

"One boy told me he hitchhiked all the way from Columbus, Ohio," the plain clothes security man said. "I talked to another kid who came from Dallas, Tex."

They converged on the South Jersey shore area and spread out over several camp sites and into numerous motels in the vicinity.

Then it was festival time and they began pouring into the race track.

MINOR 'INCIDENTS'

They talked about pop festivals being a melting pot for trouble makers, but it wasn't that way. While there were reports of minor "incidents" here and there, mostly the youngsters were there to enjoy music.

There was just a slightly sticky moment around 9 P.M. when the Iron Butterfly took over the stage. The audience was charged up and the hard-hitting, melodically dazzling sounds of the popular group hit the youngsters "where they live."

CLIMBED ON STAGE

Several of them climbed onto the stage and even the scaffolding above the stage.

But when the first song ended, the Butterfly told the audience, "Let's let everyone know that even though the fuzz was at the Atlantic City Pop Festival, they weren't needed."

Also on hand to provide music were Aum, Dr. John and the Night Trippers, Mother Earth, Procul Harum, and the Chicago Transit Authority.

ROUSING END

It all came to a rousing end with the Chambers Brothers. Youngsters by the hundreds were dancing around as best they could with thousands of people pushing on all four sides.

Periodically during the night someone got up and emphasized peace and tranquility.

At one point when the audience showed signs of getting restless following the appearance of the Iron Butterfly, Larry Magid, one of the shows producers, told the youngsters, "Not one policeman or security man here has a gun. Not one has a club. A lot of people will be interested in what happens here during this festival and what you do may decide what happens with pop festivals for years to come."


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