John Linnell
review by Cortney
Bowery Ballroom
New York City, NY
December 11, 1999

I first discovered that I was going to have the opportunity to see Mr. John Linnell at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC about two months ago. I was informed by my friend John P. Martin that he was taking me to this show as repayment for the Underworld show I had taken him to several months prior. I have always wanted to attend a performance at the Bowery and this didn't disappoint.

We started out in Boston the morning after a fabulous night out dancing. I was psyched from the second I woke up. We hopped a train to South Attleboro and after several stops to get lunch and buy snacks, John and I headed out. Thankfully he knew almost exactly where we were going. Not so thankfully, we didn't have heat in the car. It was very cold. Very cold. At any rate, after five hours of driving we finally found ourselves standing outside the Bowery with about 10 other people. It is here that we first encountered the infamous "TDK", also known as Mike ( We stood around for a bit (it was around six o'clock in the evening by then), chatted, and got to hear several songs while they were doing the sound check inside.

After about fifteen minutes of standing in the freezing cold, we set off in search of a bathroom. This is not an easy thing to find in New York. We passed about thirty Asian food restaurants until we finally stumbled across a Burger King. We returned to the sidewalk in front of the Ballroom to find an ever so slightly longer line. Excitement permeated our small crowd as we stood there shivering. We were thankfully let into the lobby at seven o'clock, where we got to formally introduce ourselves to TDK and I finally got my first glimpse of the inside of the Bowery.

If I had to choose one word to describe the venue it would be "ambient". It was dimly lit; candles were place strategically around the bar. The lobby itself was extremely textural, velvety curtains and unfinished brick and cement walls. There was some nondescript music playing as we waited for eight o'clock to roll around. When they finally opened the doors there was something of a mad dash up the stairs and onto the floor. Some rushed up another flight of steps to the balcony. We headed right to the front beside many of the people we had been standing with for almost two hours now. It was even more dimly lit in here, but I was blown away by the state of the place. There was a large, semicircular window accenting the balcony, along with gorgeous art-deco type wrought iron work on the railings. The floor and stage were well kept. I can honestly say that it is one of the nicest venues I have ever been in.

We sat underneath the edge of the stage and TDK led an impromptu sing-a-long while we waited. The opening band was called Tugboat Annie. They were quite good, sort of (and I cringe to use this term) "alterna-rock". I was pleased to find out that they were from Boston. For an opening band I was quite impressed; I think only Double Dong tops them for me (you either love Double Dong or you hate 'em, folks. I love them, and not only are they another Boston band, they're MassArt kids!). The lead singer looked like a cross between Colin Quinn and Conan O'Brian. They were fun.

Next came John Linnell. They uncovered the Wurlitzer band organ, which turned out to be a good deal smaller than most of us fans were expecting. The organ was set running and the first song played was Pennsylvania. When the song was over the Statesmen finally took the stage, made up of John Linnell, Dan Miller on guitar (a regular member of TMBG), Mark Lerner on bass, and Mark Donato on drums, and featuring Bob Stuhmer who ran the Wurlitzer. They played 18 songs altogether, my favorites were "Iowa", which was absolutely amazing with the band organ, and the cover they did of the Dead Kennedys "California Uber Alles". Other highlights were "Utah", "Nebraska" (a Bruce Springsteen cover), "Montana", and the closing song "West Virginia". The whole show was really amazing.

I wound up being in the perfect spot to get my hands on Dan Miller's set list, which one of the sound guys was nice enough to get for me. It was a wonderful night and well worth the sleepy, ice cold, five hour drive back up to my mother's house in Rhode Island. Crawling into bed never feels so good as after a concert, and I did so happily. The whole trip fading away, feeling surreal and dreamlike, I remember wishing I could have recorded my feelings on the show right away. However, this review, written on the night after, will have to do. - Cortney

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