As the sun began to set over The Gorge Amphitheatre in June of 2023, legendary singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell's most committed fanbase (mean age: 62) stayed up past their bedtimes to witness Joni's landmark return to the music performance scene. The rising of the moon transformed shivering grandparents all around me back into their bygone hippie forms, rocking faded T-shirts from Joni Mitchell's most recent visit to the venue - in 1998.
The performance of "Woodstock" was, of course, a fan favorite - after all, the song was written about many of the same fans who would later make the 21st century pilgrimage to The Gorge.
While the so-titled "Joni Jam" featuring Joni and the likes of Brandi Carlile, Marcus Mumford, Sarah McLachlan, and two of Prince's muses was an incredible piece of music history, perhaps more profound was the never-before-seen convergence of characters mostly united in adoration of the esteemed singer.
Was this all an elaborate social experiment or simply a testament to the vast reach of the iconic Joni Mitchell? The world may never know.
While I needn't recapitulate the stardom of Joni Mitchell, her fans deserve some press of their own. As such, the following is a cursory catalog of select favorite Joni Mitchell fan types I encountered at The Gorge this summer to draw inspiration and/or entertainment from during this dreary Boston winter.
Phyllis from Ohio
The remaining dusk light midway through the concert was just enough to observe Phyllis from Ohio as she hugged her knit cardigan closer to her body and nestled her glasses - thin rectangular frames enslaved around her neck with a beaded string - into her neatly coiffed gray perm. She muttered complaints about the amphitheater's stiff foldable seats, which continued for weeks thereafter in a certain "Joni Mitchell Appreciation" Facebook group I may or may not belong to.
I watched as Phyllis suddenly hunched over with an expert harumph to fish around in an overly capacious purse lying in repose by her be-Sketchered feet, emerging once more with a Ziploc baggie containing the necessary materials for - a joint?!
Surely I had seen wrong.
As if in defiant response to my doubt, she vehemently shifted her glasses to the end of her nose and set to rolling her joint as deftly as if she were darning a sock. Phyllis meant business. Phyllis mastered this particular set of skills before your mother was born.
Brittany's Husband Chris, Likely from Greenville, South Carolina
Brittany is a Brandi Carlile superfan turned Joni Mitchell enjoyer who dragged her husband to a weekend of glamping in middle-of-nowhere, Washington for Brandi's series of performances. Her statement necklace marked the beat of "Big Yellow Taxi" as it clinked against the overpriced plastic booze tube(s) with a pink straw that never left her hand(s).
For every piece of animal-print textile Brittany had donned, Chris was clad in two more articles of athleticwear. I can't imagine a world in which Chris is not a football coach and also nominally a P.E. teacher at a public high school. Chris doesn't particularly care for Brandi Carlile. Chris doesn't know who this so-called "Jody Mitchell" figure is.
But Chris supported Brittany through all four hours of their performance and encore. He flipped through various sports videos he had presumably downloaded specifically for the occasion, the glow of his Android echoing the glow of Phyllis's joint in the post-sunset outdoor venue. Behold: chivalry, alive and well!
Jasmine, Official Representative of #JoniFansUnder25
I first connected with Jasmine via social media when her painting of Joni Mitchell's "Hejira" album cover on a pumpkin was reposted by Joni's official Instagram account. Since then, I've virtually cheered as her stunning portraits of folk and rock singers on jean jackets and other media have garnered her endless recognition and backstage passes.
Jasmine and I did our part to lower the average age and increase the level of technological skill of Joni fans in the crowd. And for what it's worth, the media outlets ate it up.
Jasmine was featured in media coverage of the "Joni Jam" nearly as much as Joni Mitchell herself for her heart-shaped poster proclaiming "Dear Joni, the world loves you" on behalf of the screaming crowd.
Look, Mom, Joni Mitchell is popular with the youths! I'm of the opinion that this grants me immunity from any and all comments about my "old man" music taste. Time to change the sticker on my computer proclaiming that "I may be old, but at least I've seen Joni Mitchell perform live."
Brandi Carlile is living the dream of every Joni Mitchell fan: a personal friend of Joni's and one of the "Joni Jammers" who regularly gather in Mitchell's home to sing and play together, she has pulled the folk star from hibernation to public performance thrice now.
Brandi brought effortless dynamism, respect for Joni's musical integrity, and an ample supply of rosé to the stage. Representing her Pacific Northwestern heritage, she also supplied several Yeti mugs as wine receptacles.
With the sturdy clunk of a Yeti toast at the start of the first official Joni Mitchell concert in twenty years, Brandi instantly bridged generations of fans from all walks of life with a simple shared love for the music of Mitchell.
In today's world, I think we can all do to be a bit more like Brandi Carlile. More importantly, may we also strive for the audacity of Phyllis, the stamina of Brittany's long-suffering husband Chris, and the publicity prowess of Jasmine the Youth.
Copyright protected material on this website is used in accordance with 'Fair Use', for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of the copyright owner(s). Please read Notice and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement.
Added to Library on January 2, 2024. (561)
Log in to make a comment