Following the success of their virtual reunion concert early this year, the original members of the Side A band are coming together again on Sept. 11 for the show Side A Redux Calesa 2nd Set.
The original line-up is made up of brothers Rodel (lead vocals and saxophone) and Naldy Gonzalez (keyboards), Joey Benin (bass), Pido Lalimarmo (guitar), Kelly Badon (guitar) and Mar Dizon (drums).
This Part 2 comes just several months after the “first set” in January, which featured songs from their eponymous debut album and their usual repertoire back in the ‘80s at the Hyatt Hotel’s Calesa Bar, where they began to gain a following. The first e-reunion turned out to be one of the virtual events platform KTX.ph’s hit shows.
In an exclusive Zoom chat with The STAR, the OG members are grateful that three decades after their debut record, they continue to draw in crowds — virtually this time.
Pido said, “Of course, nakakakilig. Parang walang pinagkaiba sa, ‘Gusto mo bang makakita ng dinosaur?’ Nakaka-proud. Kumbaga sulit yung pinaghirapan namin. Yung mga pinaghihirapan namin, di talaga hirap eh kasi sobrang na-e-enjoy namin. It’s not really work, it’s not really an effort.”
For Rodel, the reception surpassed expectations. “We never expected that there’s a clamor or demand, whatever you wanna call it. But I think what everyone went through, naramdaman siguro din nila ang excitement to get back together. If you present something very honest, very truthful sa madla, I think they will also feel it.”
Things started to roll after Rodel posted photos from 30 years back — or “20 pounds ago,” they joked — on social media late last year.
Rodel, who now works in the US as an artist for Disney-licensed entertainment, recalled: “When we went on separate ways, we all went through different kinds of journeys. Ako napunta sa art, sila Pido, Mar, nagkaroon din sila ng ibang banda din. They continued their musical careers, si Joey, Kelly and my brother, of course, continues to work with Side A. (Naldy) is the only one remaining in the current Side A.”
“We communicate from time to time, but when I posted the old photos, ayun na, parang nag-align yung mga planeta,” he added.
The throwback pics triggered a rush of memories and raised the possibility of a reunion after the longest time.
“Nakakaloka yung mga suot namin nung araw. We used to wear shoulder pads. Hanep!” mused Pido, adding: “Pero para ngang teleserye yung nangyari. Kasi ang sinagot ko (sa throwback post) ay isang lumang picture din na ang caption ay: ‘Hindi pa huli.’ It received a lot of reactions.”
The photos also had them looking back on their humble beginnings. Formed in 1985, the band’s goal back then was to hear its music being played inside jeepneys. “‘Pag nasa jeep kami, sinasabi namin, uy malapit na natin marinig sa jeep ang music natin. Dream namin yun dati,” they recalled.
With the help of DJ friends, one song finally made it to radio airwaves — Eva Marie. Joey, who composed it for his wife, said: “I remember I was at Dunkin’ Donuts, una ko siyang narinig. Yung mga tao sa ibang table, gusto kong sabihan kami yan! Nakakatuwa kasi yung ibang nag-ta-tap alongside the music.”
It became the most requested song for months, eventually inspiring Side A to release a full-length album in 1989.
Highlights from their time together included their first-ever concert at Rizal Theater (before the area became Makati Shangri-La), and when they almost got kicked out from their regular gigs at Calesa Bar.
Naldy recalled, “Tumutugtog kami sa pwesto pero may mga offer na kami na tumugtog sa mga special gig sa labas. One time, we did it for a school fraternity. Sabi namin hindi kami pwede mag-extend kasi tatakbo pa kami sa Hyatt. After ng tugtog, nabitin yung mga nasa party. So nilapagan kami ng pera. Bukol-bukol yun, tig-P100. ‘Tugtog pa kayo.’ Ang ending na-late kami sa trabaho. Galit na galit yung GM, tutugtog na kami pero pinatayan kami ng kuryente. Kulang nalang palayasin kami.”
“Pinagalitan kami, ‘You’re not indispensable. I will build another Side A,’” added Rodel.
They, however, managed to resume their gigs at the Calesa Bar after the incident.
Other favorite memories were the foreign acts who jammed with them like Fra Lippo Lippi and Robby Rosa of Menudo.
These memories and more are going to be relived at the second concert.
Challenging, enjoyable process
Their original plan was to only reunite and re-record their first album.
Rodel said, “We had a Zoom meeting at first… and realized we really missed each other. It was Mar who opened up the subject: ‘Why don’t we have a reunion?’ Pero yung reunion namin para sa amin lang, that we’d be able to do a recording again.
“We had the project to re-record our first album, which is yun lang talaga ang nabuo namin together. Masaya na kami dun… hanggang nagdagdag (ng projects).”
The main challenge of the virtual show was their different locations. Good thing, Joey, Naldy and Pido had some experience and knowledge in the technology being used to make the shows a reality. The rest learned to adapt as well.
Mar said, “Tamad ako mag-aral ng recording kasi trabaho na yun ng engineer. Pupunta lang kami ng studio. Pero nung pandemic, home alone ako, walang gagawa para sa amin. So sa phone lang nilalatag ko yung multi-track… para mabuo. Aral kami talaga. Para kang nag-te-thesis. We have to catch up, otherwise we will be left behind.”
One thing’s for sure, the whole process felt like a reunion of long-lost brothers. They remembered playing every single night for three straight years. Kelly said, “Then after the gig, sama-sama pa rin kami. Kakain, imbis pauwi na, sama-sama pa rin.” Their closeness reached the level where they had sleepovers at each other’s homes and borrowed each other’s cars. Like any close relationship, there were also “away-bati” moments.
Rodel said, “Sabi nga, ‘pag di ka nadapa, di mo rin talaga ma-experience ang saya ng success, or how can you differentiate happiness and failure? Of course, that time, masakit. But now when you look back, natatawa ka nalang bakit nagkaganun.
“Like the first to leave the group were Pido and Mar. Joey (Generoso) came in as replacement and Benjie Mendez on drums. Then I left in ‘91 before the White album of Side A. Then it was Kelly who left and Joey also (in 2007). But these were all graceful exits. ‘Di yung nagkasuntukan, walang ganun.”
Coping with the pandemic
Side A admitted that if the pandemic didn’t happen, they wouldn’t have had the idea and chance to reunite as they were all busy with other things.
“It paved the way,” Pido said. “Di rin namin alam bakit ang tagal.”
For Joey, it’s an answered prayer. “Matagal na akong wala sa music. Naka-hang na yung mga gitara ko. Nabitbit and nailabas ko ulit,” said Joey, who is now based in Silay, Negros Occidental and is a local church minister.
“Dito kasi ako sa probinsya. Meron akong mga demo, mga songs na si Rodel ang naiisip ko na kumakanta, kumabaga yung Side A nung araw ang na-i-imagine ko nag-pe-perform sa demos ko. Then yun ang nangyari.”
This reunion has allowed them to bring back how they used to be during their early years. Naldy said, “Nagkakapigaan kami ngayon. We are learning again. Our thought process in music is alive and working again.”
It has also helped them cope with the pandemic.
Pido said, “It’s a confirmation that we really had a bond and a band. The positive energy (the reunion) gave us, I’m very grateful for it. Somehow, it gets me through the day. I have something to look forward to while we’re battling the lockdown and other effects of the pandemic.”
With the first concert as benchmark, the band members promised to level up in the 2nd Set with a longer repertoire and new songs, including Joey’s fresh take on his own composition, the Side A hit Forevermore.
Singer-songwriter Clara Benin is also one of the special guests.
“Side A Baby yan, parang proud fathers kami lahat,” said Pido.
Joey said, “Nakakatuwa, isa yun talaga sa mga highlights, yung makakasama namin si Clara. Of course, Clara is my daughter, she grew up knowing them and she considers them parang mga tatay na. That’s why she’s also excited to perform.”
What’s next after the 2nd Set? Apart from working on an all-originals album, they are hoping for a third set for Side A Redux just like the good old days at Calesa and “God willing, we will be physically together and perform live by that time.”
Side A is thankful to Forex, Ateneo College Batch 1988, ANCOP and KTX.ph for sponsoring the concert, as well as to their manager Lito Fugoso who is the shows’ executive producer. Tickets cost P1,000 or $20 and can be purchased at carlopacific.com or ktx.ph.
As the first concert raised money for charitable organizations such as Alpabasa, PJPS, Tanging Yaman Foundation, Inc., JesuitAid and the Jesuit Volunteers Philippines, the second one will benefit the ANCOP Foundation and the Feed the Hungry program.