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May 28, 2000

Joni Mitchell Fest 2000

The Howlin' Wolf. New Orleans, Lousiana


What a trip to be invited to take part in Joni Fest 2000 - a beautiful tribute to the Queen (Undisputedly!) of Songwriting, Joni Mitchell. More than 35 artists performed at the marathon, six-hour celebration that went into the wee-hours of the New Orleans morning at legendary local haunt the Howlin' Wolf. The event raised funds for the Ruth Paz Foundation; we also lit candles in memory of Wally Breese, founder of Joni And, but of course, there was many a JMDLer in attendance, quite literally from all corners of the planet.

Here's an excerpt from one of the first reports on the big event:

"Susan Cowsill (remember her?) and Leslie Smith knocked me out with their incredible voices; The Jason Marsalis Band did an amazing set of mainly tunes from Joni's Hissing of Summer Lawns album; [Show producer Michael] Paz's Band ripped through a killer electric NeilYoungesque version of 'Hejira;' David Lahm brought a few members of Marsalis' band back for another excellent set. Then Bryan Thomas blew the house down at about 2:30 AM."

Damn! It was a happy end to a six-hour celebration, lemme tell ya.

Check the reviews look for more good stuff online at Les Irvin's labor of love,

Much thanks to Wally, Les, and Queen Joni. And big big ups to Mr. Paz. Paz-itively.

Reviews from Joni Mitchell Fest 2000 Attendees

"Bryan Thomas' new 'do and new band knocked us out... They blew the house down at about 2:30 a.m." Les, Colorado Springs, CO.

"David Lahm the plucky New Yawka borrowed Marsalis' band and did an incredible set. By the time he finished I must say I felt really sorry for Bryan Thomas. How could he possibly now follow seven hours of all this great music? This was totally unfair, I thought. Well, Bryan with his Strat and a drummer and bass did a version of Black Crow for the fricken ages. Sorry but you can keep Richard Thompson's version from the TNT Tribute show, I'm down with Bryan's take. I am absolutely serious. It was absolutely awesome. It occurred to me that this "spirit" whatever it was (Wally ?), was staying in the house until the very end. It was continuing to bless each and every performer with the ability to stand on their own in triumph. After seven hours and great song after great song there was room for Bryan to sparkle and he did. Bryan deserved the Joni medal of honor for pulling this one off. Props to his musicians as well." Marcel D., San Francisco, CA.


First the Big Easy. Now the Big Apple.

Albany singer-songwriter Bryan Thomas and his new band bring acoustic punk soul to the stage of New York City's legendary CBGB's to kick off the Black Rock Coalition's Black Music Month celebration Saturday, June 10, 2000 at 9 p.m.

The New York event comes on the heels of a headlining slot at a New Orleans tribute to singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell on Memorial Day weekend - a rowdy, rockin' performance with Thomas' band that brought the house down in the wee hours of the morning. [See below for reviews.]

"We were pretty scared when we found out that [show producer Michael] Paz wanted us to close the show," says Thomas. "Following so many great artists, world class musicians. A Marsalis? A Funky Meter? David Lahm? We were terrified. After all, it was only our second gig."

Normally acoustic, Thomas plugged in a Strat for this one and delivered the overdrive, bringing a new, punk energy to his interpretations of Mitchell's "Black Crow" and "All I Want" - with the help of Matt Loiacono on the drums and T. Malachi Price on the bass. (Both Matt and T. Malachi were moonlighting from their gig with Albany punk bluegrass quartet the Kamikaze Hearts.) The electric sound also added depth to Thomas' soulful read of "Little Green," which he dedicated to the memory of founder Wally Breese. (Breese was responsible for reuniting Mitchell with her long lost daughter in 1996; until recently, very few were aware that the story Mitchell tells in the song "Little Green" was her true account of giving up daughter Kilauren for adoption in 1966.)

Billed as "Joni Mitchell Fest 2000," the event at The Howlin' Wolf included more than 30 acts from New Orleans and around the world, including the Jason Marsalis Quintet, New York jazz pianist David Lahm, New Orleans blues legend "Little Queenie," guitarist Brian Stoltz of the Funky Meters, and singer Susan Cowsill (The Cowsills, Continental Drifters). The party was a fundraiser for the Ruth Paz Foundation, established in 1996 by show producer Michael Paz in memory of his mother (and thanks in part to a generous grant from Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan) to support children burn victims in Honduras. The event also served as a memorial service for Breese.

Thomas, Loiacono and Price will kick off the party at CBGB's this Saturday night with a set of Thomas' originals, including favorites from his critically acclaimed debut CD "Radio Plastic Jennifer," and several new songs written in the past year. Also on the bill: Bandroid, the Steve Clarke Band, Jared Booty, Shoshanna, and other special guests to be announced.

Thomas performs next in the Capital Region in a solo-acoustic setting as part of the City of Albany's Alive at Five series Thursday, June 29; he's on the bill that night with several "Capital Songwriters," including Amy Abdou, Michael Eck, Mary K. (of MK4), Paddy Kilrain, George Muscatello, Rob Skane, and Maria Zemantauski. Local legend Mother Judge hosts.

The Black Rock Coalition (BRC) was founded in the fall of 1985 in New York City by Vernon Reid (of Living Colour) with the purpose of creating an atmosphere conducive to the maximum development, exposure and acceptance of Black alternative music; CBGB is one of the birthplaces of punk rock - a movement owner Hilly Kristal helped foster when he began booking "fringe" acts like Television, Blondie, Talking Heads, and the Ramones.

Closing out the evening with a rocking version of "Black Crow." Bry-Bry, T. Malachi and Matt rock on.

Show producer Michael Paz.

He comes for "Conversation;" Claud comforts him sometimes.

Pianist David Lahm offers jazz takes on Joni.

A funny moment for Susan Cowsill during her heartfelt read of "The Last Time I Saw Richard." (Drink up now, it's gettin' on time to close!)

Drummer Jason Marsalis leads his band through a dreamy, New Orleans take on Joni's "Dreamland."

"By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong..."

Lahm leads the way.

Denise Marie's shoes, guitar and dress are the perfect color complement to her motel room.

Lahm and Leslie Mixon say goodbye to porkpie hat.

"I am on a lonely road and I am traveling, traveling, traveling..."

The Marsalis Quintet hisses like summer lawns. Coooool.

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