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Sounds Local: Joni Mitchell tribute comes to Turners Falls: Big Yellow Taxi to perform ‘Court and Spark’ in its entirety, May 18 at the Shea - By SHERYL HUNTER For the Greenfield Recorder

Big Yellow Taxi, the premier Joni Mitchell tribute band here in the Northeast, will perform all of Mitchell’s “Court and Spark” album at the Shea Theater Arts Center in Turners Falls on Saturday, May 18, at 8 p.m. The album turns 50 this year.

Vocalist Teresa Lorenco began listening to Joni Mitchell’s music as a teenager. Her profound connection with Mitchell’s music led to the formation of Big Yellow Taxi, a band that is deeply committed to honoring Mitchell’s unique musical style.

Photo by Julian Parker Burns

If you are a Joni Mitchell fan (and who isn’t), you’ll want to be at the Shea Theater Arts Center in Turners Falls on Saturday, May 18, at 8 p.m. when the premier Joni Mitchell tribute band here in the Northeast, Big Yellow Taxi, takes the stage. This is a special show as the band will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mitchell’s popular album, “Court and Spark,” and will perform the entire album. Big Yellow Taxi is based here in the Valley and got their start playing locally.

It’s hard to believe that “Court and Spark,” which gave us hits like “Help Me” and “Free Man in Paris,” is 50 years old. This collection of songs sounds as fresh and vital as when it was released in January 1974. A critical and commercial success, “Court and Spark” further reinforced Mitchell’s status as a musical legend and one of the most influential singer-songwriters of our time.

Prepare to be deeply moved by Teresa Lorenco’s heartfelt performance as the vocalist for Big Yellow Taxi. Her journey with Mitchell’s music began in her teenage years, when she was captivated by the classic album, “Blue.” Her profound connection with Mitchell’s music led to the formation of Big Yellow Taxi, a band that is deeply committed to honoring Mitchell’s unique musical style.

“I was singing as part of a duo, and I’d do a couple of Joni’s songs, and after the shows, people would come up to me and say, ‘you can really sing Joni Mitchell,” said Lorenco, who, with her bandmate Rich Cahillane, recently joined me at a coffee shop in Florence to talk about the group. “The duo wasn’t really feeding my creative juices, and I started to think about doing Joni Mitchell (music) on a larger scale, maybe with a band.”

She did some research and discovered that in a world flooded with tribute bands, very few are devoted to Mitchell’s music. There is a simple explanation for this: the music is hard to play. The lady of the canyon, as Mitchell has been called, is known for using open tunings, odd time signatures, and elaborate arrangements. Simply put, she plays the guitar and sings like no other artist.

Lorenco decided to move forward with forming the band and found a group of talented local musicians excited by the challenge of playing Mitchell’s music. If you follow the local music scene, you will recognize these players: Joe Fitzpatrick on drums, John Cabán on guitar and vocals, Rich Cahillane on bass, guitar, dulcimer and vocals, Anne T. Patterson on vocals and percussion, and Robert Sherwood on piano, keyboards and bass.

Big Yellow Taxi (the name comes from a 1970 Mitchell song) played its first show in 2021 at the Florence VFW. They’ve since gone on to play throughout the Northeast.

“Being in a cover band was never my goal; we’ve all been involved with original music,” said Cahillane, who lives in Leverett and has played bass with many local bands and recorded as a solo artist, “but when you get a call asking you to play Joni Mitchell music it was like that’s a cover band I can be in because her music is endlessly fascinating and we are just scratching the surface.”

One interesting aspect of this Big Yellow Taxi is they have a second female vocalist, Anne T. Patterson, who is best known as the co-creator of the Rise Up songbooks.

“It needed it, because on the recordings there tends to be a lot of layered vocals that she has done and for certain songs I wanted that to happen,” said Lorenco.

Big Yellow Taxi plays the full range of Mitchell’s music from her folk days to her ventures into jazz. They stay true to Mitchell’s versions of the songs while these talented musicians also add some of their own flavor into the material.

“We rearrange things a little bit,” said Cahillane. “We have a what would Joni do attitude, she was never one to play the same stuff over and over, she’d change it up when she played live.”

And it’s not just the music, there’s Mitchell’s lyrics which are often personal and steeped in emotion. Listeners have a deep connection to these songs and fortunately, Lorenco has Beautiful, smooth voice that’s able to convey the deep feelings that are expressed in this music.

“I’m someone who really understands feelings, I’ve always had that in me. So it was an easy fit for me,” she said about singing Mitchell’s words. “The first time I heard Joni Mitchell I was like ‘here is someone who understands me,’ the way she sings, the way she writes. There is no one like her.”

Creating that emotional connection with the audience is a big part of what Big Yellow Taxi strive to do.

“We want to give audiences the experience they are seeking in a Joni Mitchell performance,” added Lorenco. “It’s not just getting the sound of her but were trying to bring that emotional element that touches people.”

And given the audiences’ responses to their performances, they have succeeded. “Sometimes I look out there and people will actually be bawling,” said the singer. “That’s a high level reward to reach people like that.”

The band will no doubt reach people when they play the music of “Court and Spark.” Big Yellow Taxi covered “Blue” in its entirety in 2021 when that album had its 5oth anniversary so Cahillane felt they should do “Court and Spark” now that album has reached the same milestone. Lorenco wasn’t immediately sold on the idea. She felt it was too daunting to tackle this popular and challenging work, but she eventually gave in.

“It took us the entire winter to learn these songs and it was some heavy lifting,” said Cahillane about the album on which Mitchell started adding elements of jazz into her work.

Big Yellow Taxi will play “Court and Spark” from start to finish and also include some other material in the show at the Shea. This will be the fourth “Court and Spark” show they’ve done. They will spend the summer touring the show, taking it all over the Northeast. The band only plays a handful of local shows each year.

“We really enjoy this,” said Lorenco of Big Yellow Taxi. “It’s a lot of work and takes a lot of focus but we are super lucky that everyone in this band is a wonderful person and it’s a project of love and passion.”

Tickets are $19 in advance and $25 at the door. Tickets are available at All ages are welcome and doors open at 7 p.m.

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