It’s 10 p.m. on a Thursday, and gentle waves are caressing the idyllic Redondo Beach Pier. Nary a sound is heard except for the creaking of the docks, and maybe the faraway drone of a fat man doing karaoke to “Pour Some Sugar on Me”. This tourist attraction is so placid and unassuming; one might never have known that beneath it lies a bordello of rock music.
Above ground, it’s doubtful anyone could hear the thundering bass of Phil Buckman or the angsty growl of Richard Patrick. But in the speakeasy known as Brixton South Bay, the noise was palpable. Arena-sized riffs emanated from the amps, making one’s jeans flap from the aural typhoon. For a place that holds less than 500 people, industrial behemoth Filter performed as though it was headlining the Staples Center.
That fervor is a trait often found in touring bands a decade removed from their ‘90s heyday. They’re playing for their lives, ever grateful for the devoted (but shrinking) army of fans. Front man Patrick, looking pleased as punch to be playing such an intimate gig, addressed the crowd with a tone of brotherhood.
“It’s about fucking goofing off,” he said. “It’s about the camaraderie of the audience.”
Filter’s music doesn’t exactly scream “goofball” though. The band’s breakout hit, 1995’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot”, is about public suicide. Strangling his microphone, Patrick winced through this ripper, the vein in his neck threatening to lash out at the buxom women in the front row.
At 43, the vocalist still has impressive, emotive chops. No slowing down for this middle-aged father of two—he’d leap atop a podium onstage and whip his head back and forth more emphatically than Willow Smith ever could. And the ferociousness of the songs hasn’t eased up, either. Scathing tracks off the 2010 album The Trouble with Angels (Rocket Science Ventures) complemented the classic sound nicely. Maybe the genre Filter found itself affiliated with isn’t a thriving community anymore, but it sure seemed healthy and alive at Brixton.
To tap into modern energy, Patrick expressed his support for the Occupy Wall Street movement. With that, the band launched into its ravey collaboration with the Crystal Method, “(Can’t You) Trip Like I Do”. The headbanging action in the audience mimicked the ocean’s lapping at the pier outside.
Amid the furor, Patrick rattled off a few non sequitors. “Are we in Odessa, Texas?” he quipped. “You guys are the fucking beef! I’ll take some porterhouse.” What he meant by that, no one could surmise. But the fans gave some sympathetic chuckles. At least he engages the listeners. One can’t say the same about today’s crop of insular, extra-shy lead singers of the alternative rock realm.
Ironically, it was one of their mellower tunes that most skillfully captivated. “Take a Picture”, though given a boost of guitar steroids via axeman Jonny Radtke, was omnipresent on the airwaves in the year 2000. It so efficiently summarized that end-of-the-millennium vibe, what with Patrick yelling to his absentee dad while the instruments drifted away from the industrial influence that made Filter popular. And take a picture the fans did, relishing their temporary closeness to the still-sexy front man.
Filter might be popping up in smaller clubs these days, but its gritty, electric majesty hasn’t deflated. For Patrick and Co., the energy is still balls to the wall, even when the confines of those walls are contracting.