live review

Bailterspace, Bowery Ballroom, New York City

Bailterspace, Bowery Ballroom, New York City

Reviewed by Mike Wolf
29th March 2010

Bailterspace
Saturday August 23, 2008
Bowery Ballroom, New York City

Here’s what we knew going in: Bassist-guitarist John Halvorsen was back in New Zealand, meaning there was a set of songs that we wouldn’t be hearing tonight. Beyond that it was all questions. Such as, What condition would lead-spaceman Alister Parker be in for Bailterspace’s first gig after he was badly injured a few years back in a mugging? And, Would anybody remember Bailterspace in NYC, where this year’s model becomes last week’s news in the blog of an eye? Also, How did an only moderately popular (here, at least) band that’d been out of sight for a few years get a Saturday-night headlining slot at one of the city’s premier upwardly indie venues?

In order: great, not so much, and the world may never know. Bailterspace took the stage before roughly 100 people in a room that holds six times that many and promptly spent three or four wordless minutes fiddling with tunings. “Yeah, that’s Bailterspace all right,” an experienced hand in the crowd noted with a smile. And then—wammo, the trio led off with “Untied” and “Splat,” played at crushing volume on one of NYC’s best sound systems. The audience compensated for its small size with very un-New York–like enthusiasm, especially considering that many of us were of sufficient vintage to at least remember Bailterspace’s mid-90s prime (if not that of the Gordons). Typically laconic, Alister was nonetheless clearly moved, thanking the crowd profusely and grinning almost uncontrollably between songs. In action the syrupy-cool guitarist was undiminished, moving like a spring-figure at sea, head and limbs ebb-flowing with the songs as his deceptive lethargy erupted into manic riff-warfare. Before rewarding consistent requests for “The Aim” (guilty!), he lit a cig—illegal indoors here—filling the stage with haze; another cloud of smoke prefaced a stormy “Grader Spader.” Drummer Brent McLachlan was in top form, laser-crisp and anvil strong; the new guy—he’s probably got a name, but out of deference to John he’ll be known as “new guy” in this space—held it down admirably on bass, closely following Alister’s visual cues and laying back from the lights.

The hour-long set was quickly followed by a two-song encore: “Your Invisible Life,” which some (including Brent) later suspected they’d already played once in different form, and a particularly vicious “EIP,” which found Alister spraying hydrochloric sparks across the room. In high spirits afterward (no pun intended), both he and Brent spoke eagerly of returning Bailterspace to regular action; while three new songs posted on their MySpace failed to stand out amid the set, they’re solid enough—and the band properly energized—to make all this a blindingly good development. —

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