Outside Schwenksville: Joni Mitchell Breaks Up Opening of Festival
In an open field outside Schwenksville last night, a girl with blonde hair long as uncut wheat brought several thousand listeners to their feet, cheering for a voice echoing words that haunted.
Joni Mitchell had stopped the opening night of the seventh annual Philadelphia Folk Festival dead in its tracks.
Only her plea that she was not permitted any encores beyond her 20 minutes of five songs silenced the shouting that proclaimed this girl a sensation.
It was her first appearance here since her only album appeared earlier this year.
Joni Mitchell - a 24 year old Canadian, with only one album, and a reputation that has blossomed her into the most exciting girl singer since Judy Collins, since Joan Baez.
For Joni is a writer and an influence.
Like Tim Hardin, her songs have been heard through other singers: Judy Collins singing "Michael from Mountains"; some group making popular "Both Sides, Now."
Joni Mitchell is also a phenomenon.
Like the crashing surf, you have to feel her voice hitting you hard to gain the exhilaration of something yet unexperienced.
The awful thing about Joni has been that she seemed to have two voices, a deep, open-throated tenor and thin soaring soprano. She could not sustain a song without breaking across into what seemed a weakness.
But last night, she was stronger than in her album, each of her voices a richness, singing "Being Free," "Chelsea Morning," "Both Sides, Now" and a medley of "The Circle Game" and "Little Green."
The crowd sang "Circle Game" with her, a song she's never recorded.
Her awareness awakened by the bitterness of the cities in these, her voice carried the awe of a country girl affronted, the humility of a girl warning against what she had lived through.
Joni herself, was in bad shape, suffering from the effects of hepatitis.