I missed her at the Drag City showcase at SXSW. I missed her on Monday night when she opened for Devandra Barnhart at the Bowery Ballroom. Damned if I didnít think I was going to miss her again on Tuesday night when I saw the line at the Mercury Lounge stretched all the way down the block and around the corner. Fortunately, I managed to slip into the packed venue minutes before Joanna Newsom took the stage. I wasnít really sure what to expect. I had listened to a few mp3s online but had no real expectations as to what this was going to sound like. As I scanned the room, I realized that no one else really did either. ?Just as I was thinking how great it was to have no expectations for a show, she stepped on stage in this flowing white dress and bejeweled headband and with no warning, she started singing ñ no mic, no nothing ñ just singing and then CLAPPING, and I thought quickly to myself that maybe I made a mistake. But there was her voice, and all of the sudden I realized why we were there. It was all about this voice.
There I was, clapping and swaying and feeling damn near moved by the whole thing. And she hadnít even gotten to her harp yet. Yes, she plays the harp. Not a harmonica, but a seven foot-tall gold harp. She doesnít lightly strum the harp. She really plucks the strings. Its almost laborious. Serious even. But once she gets going you realize how good the whole thing is. Sheís plucking away and her voice is soaring and diving and the voice and the harp are like two sides of this story that her lyrics are telling and you realize that you are really glad that you finally came to see her.
You wish you had more time to spend with the lyrics, because you are sure there is so much there, but you are really just caught up in how strange and beautiful it all is. You wish you had better words to describe this voice of hers. You want to tell people that it might remind them of Bjork and that they might just hate it, but really you just want to tell people to listen to her music and if you can, go see her for yourself.
Source: Gary Johnson