A CHRONOLOGY OF APPEARANCES
Compiled by Simon Montgomery, © 2001
 

1966.02.15  The Chess Mate  Detroit, MI

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myleskooper on 2009-Nov-02 at 08:01:17 GMT-5:
I don't recall the exact date, but I saw Joni perform at the Chess Mate on a very cold and snowy Saturday night in winter '66. We were actually there to see a blues act (I think it was Coco Taylor) that apparently got stuck in a snowstorm on I-94 and couldn't make it to Detroit for the gig.
Maury, the Chess Mate owner, used to sit in the dark near the front door where he would sell tickets through a tiny opening in the wall and introduce the performers. In a raspy voice that seemed to come from nowhere in the room, he apologized for the situation with the band coming from Chicago and explained that Joni would be appearing tonight instead.
I had seen her perform before with her husband as 'Chuck & Joni Mitchell' and was disappointed. They were a bit too Peter, Paul & Mary for me.
Seeming more than a little shy, Joni got up on stage with her Martin guitar and explained that she was actually booked to play another gig that night with Chuck. But Maury asked her to sit in and she was glad to help out. Besides, she didn't want to play the other gig anyway (a men's club or something like that).
While she talked, she strummed her guitar. I could tell she was playing an open tuning and that impressed me. After she performed a couple of up-tempo songs, she gently started finger picking the intro to 'Urge for Going'. Then she began to sing the lyrics and I was riveted. That was one of the most touching songs I had ever heard, sung by the one of the loveliest women I had ever seen.
Joni's performance as a soloist was totally different. She was shamelessly honest in her words and captivating in her presence. So deeply personal and unpretentious. In her song, she eloquently described the sun turning "traitor cold" and trees "shivering naked" in a row. The way she so sweetly formed her mouth around all the 'O' words in this song made me want to "ply the fire with kindling" and "pull the blankets up to my chin" -- ideally with Joni snuggled close by my side.
We exchanged a few short words after her set. I wish it could have been more. But I was only 16, and she was married to Chuck.
A few months later my band, the B52 Blues, played an open stage 'hootenanny' at the Chess Mate. I saw Joni there talking to Maury. I was glad she disappeared before our set.
The following year, my good friend Pete Anderson, who is now a well-known guitarist and producer in LA (Dwight Yoakam, Michelle Shocked), moved into an apartment on W. Ferry just 2 doors down from Joni. I spent a lot of time in that neighborhood but, unfortunately, never ran into her on the street or anything.
It wasn't until a year or so later that I saw her play again on Plum Street, Detroit's answer to Haight-Ashbury. By this time, she was a solo act - not only on stage.
  [ed.]