Side By Side Vocalist Jules Massee on the NYHC Band’s Final Performance

Side By Side @ 1720, Los Angeles, CA, 2024. (Photo: Evan Moses)

Over the past weekend, classic NYHC invaded Los Angeles and Orange County, California. Spread over three nights, Judge, Youth of Today, and Shelter all played headline shows, but it Side By Side that truly made it a unique experience. You see, the band had only played two prior gigs (one in Europe, the other in NYC) since they decided to reunite last year. 

Side By Side's first and last time playing in California (more on that below) went down at 1720 in downtown LA on Saturday (April 13th) and I was in attendance to witness the action. Though I grew up in NYC, I never saw the NYHC (Rev #5) outfit live before, so it was an opportunity I wasn't going to pass up. Side By Side delivered with an impassioned performance that matched the crowd's intensity. 

Though we said hellos backstage, I didn't get to chat with vocalist Jules Masses after their set. After he emailed me after the weekend, I asked him if he would be game to do a quick interview about the reunion, and he obliged. The last time we had a conversation was when his other former band, Alone In a Crowd, reunited for a benefit show in 2018, so it was great catching up.

Before you read on, Jules wanted me to share the link to the Alex Brown Foundation. Founded in honor of Side By Side (and Gorilla Biscuits) guitarist Alex Brown, the foundation's aim to provide "emerging and established artists of exceptional merit with an opportunity to focus entirely on their work for an extended period of time."

Side By Side reunited for three shows all together, starting with Revolution Calling in November 2023. Did it take a lot of convincing from [Side By Side drummer Sammy Siegler], or were you game right away? Did playing the Alone In a Crowd reunion show in 2019 help in that regard?
Sammy has been instrumental in getting all these reunion shows booked — we couldn’t have done it without him, but he actually didn’t start it. Oddly, it started with some totally random offers I got out of the blue a couple of years ago. My knee-jerk reaction was to just say “no,” but I figured that wasn’t really fair of me to foreclose that opportunity for everyone else — so I let the other guys know.  

I told them that if they wanted to do it I was in as long as 1) they (original lineup Eric Fink, Sammy Siegler, Billy Bitter) were all in it; and 2) we did something charitable to honor Alex’s [Brown, who passed away in 2019] memory. The consensus was “hell yeah!”  

Then we started talking about doing a series of shows and one thing led to another. We tried to make them all happen in 2023, but weren’t able to fit the last one (California) in until this year. And yes, the Alone In a Crowd reunion show to benefit Howie Wallen opened my eyes to how much current good this old hardcore stuff can achieve. If I hadn’t had that experience, I probably would never have gotten on a stage again.

Side By Side @ 1720, Los Angeles, CA, 2024. (Photo: Evan Moses)

You had Lars Weiss from Alone In a Crowd playing bass at the Los Angeles show. Tell me about the circumstances around that.
Lars was OG Side By Side, just nobody knows it! Late in ’87 after Billy’s departure Lars took over on bass. We had already recorded the EP, so he isn’t on any of the recordings that circulated for the last 37 years. Lars practiced with us a few times and then played one show (Side By Side’s last last show) at the Anthrax.

He had broken his hand at an Agnostic Front show, so he played with a cast:

Side By Side with Lars on bass @ The Anthrax, Norwalk, CT.

For the 2023 Eindhoven and NYC shows, Lars played second guitar. Initially, the idea for these shows were to keep the lineup Eric, Sammy, Billy, and me for two reasons: first, it didn’t feel right “replacing” Alex and second, we were all scattered across the USA, and having one less person to coordinate would make practicing and getting everybody to gigs that much easier.  

After the first practice, we decided we wanted to have two guitars again… so Lars was the logical choice, not just because of his history with the band, but because I had just done the Alone In a Crowd reunion show and since we played some Side By Side songs, he would be ahead of the curve.
Unfortunately, Billy had a last-minute medical issue that prevented him from playing the LA gig — we were all super bummed about it. Lars understood the assignment, and once again he was Side By Side’s bass player.

How would you describe your thoughts when you hit the stage at 1720 the other night? From my perspective watching from the crowd, you looked genuinely happy and relaxed up there, but did you have any butterflies?
Every time I go on stage it is sort of an out-of-body experience — I never really know what’s going to come out of my mouth. So, it’s really hard to describe what’s going on in my head. No nerves, just a lot of energy racing around. It’s kind of funny — if I felt any pressure onstage at all it actually came from Sammy trying to keep me from talking too much!  

[Laughs] I think it’s karma, because back in the day, whenever Sammy might miss a beat or something, I would turn and shoot him a dirty look — and he told me to quit it ‘cause it would freak him out. Turnabout is fair play, I guess, now he’s keeping me in line.

Los Angeles was a great crowd — and to me that makes all the difference. In hardcore, the band is only part of the equation. If the crowd is hype, then I’m hype.

Side By Side @ 1720, Los Angeles, CA, 2024. (Photo: Evan Moses)

What songs do you feel had an especially strong reaction from the audience that night? Also, the Warzone cover was a nice touch. Why did you choose that one?
Well, we decided to open the set with "Backfire," which is something we used to do back in the day — that song is kinda’ nuts and really raised the energy in the room to 11.

As far as the cover, when Side By Side was just getting started (’86 or ’87), Warzone was in one of its many breakups between lineup changes. I asked Raybeez for permission to do a Warzone song. He wrote out the lyrics to "Fuck Your Attitude" on the back of a flyer and gave it to me with his blessing.

READ MORE: Todd Youth (FireBurn, Warzone, Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law, Danzig, Son of Sam, Bloodclot) 2018 interview

Side By Side played "Fuck Your Attitude" for the first time at CBGB on April 5, 1987 — Side By Side’s very first show. It’s always been one of my favorite hardcore songs and sums up why Warzone was my favorite band (at least back then). RIP Raybeez, RIP Todd Youth, RIP Batmite, RIP Charlie Ultraviolence.

You said on stage that we were witnessing the last Side By Side show. What made you decide to close the books on the band this time? I’m sure you’re still getting show offers.
No offers of which I am aware… The books were closed on Side By Side almost 40 years ago. These three shows were meant to honor a bandmate we lost and maybe tie up some loose ends that were left went Side By Side suddenly disbanded. Mission accomplished.

I am totally grateful to everyone who turned out — we played to more people in the last three shows than in all Side By Side’s past gigs… combined. Recordings are one thing — in my opinion, though, hardcore can only really be experienced live.

But to do live shows requires a level of commitment and energy that I am not sure I can give anymore, not and do them justice, anyway. I don’t begrudge any bands who are still touring, now, I’m just talking about me. If I can’t give 100% or more, each and every time, then it’s not worth it. 

I truly feel honored to have had the opportunity to reconnect and play with these guys who were such an important part of my youth. Absolutely mind-blowing that generations of hardcore kids have kept the faith. It is encouraging that there are so many younger bands coming up and doing some really amazing things — it’s their time now. 

Side By Side in the late '80s. (Photo courtesy of Revelation Records)


Tagged: alone in a crowd, side by side