The 2018 Ol’ School Dance Party rocked the Native Sons Hall on Spring Street on Saturday, March 10 as Kam Franklin of the American soul and R&B band called “The Suffers” energized the crowd of parents, alumnae and supporters of the St. Helena Cooperative Nursery School.
This was the Annual ‘Ol School Dance Party put on by the Co-op, which was advertised as a way for parents to “Leave the kids at home and come shake it.” And shake it they did to the raucous beat of The Suffers’ drums, electric guitars, brass section, and the incredible vocal talents of Franklin.
The Suffers is a Gulf Coast band from Houston, Texas and it included Kam Franklin (lead vocals), Adam Castaneda (bass guitar), Kevin Bernier (guitar), Jon Durbin (trumpet), Michael Razo (trombone), Jose Luna (percussion), Patrick Kelly (keyboards), and Nick Zamora (drums). They were formed in 2011.
As they filed onto the hall’s miniscule stage, decorated with a bold backdrop of a dark blue sky with an ancient oak framing an orange-yellow sun, the band turned its back on the audience, raised arms to the sky, and screamed out a call. According to reports, this is the normal launch of their act, to cut through the tensions, nervousness and anxiety.
“Okay, I gotta ask you all,” Franklin said to the crowd between sets. “Do you pronounce it ‘Saint Hell-ina? Saint Hell-Ena? Or Saint Helena?”
The crowd laughed, and one young man offered her his pronunciation. No one in the audience complained.
Then the beat picked up as the audience immediately gravitating closer and closer to the tremendous voice of Franklin who danced and sang and raised her arms in celebratory dance.
The band met and combined their energies with her and soon the room was filled with a solid sound-wall of horn, guitar-licks and rising drum beats. Even the so-called “old-timers” lining the edges of the hall couldn’t help themselves as they bounced into the middle of the dance hall to rock and twist and dance to the band’s contagious beat.
Later, outside the hall, groups of exhausted couples gathered on folding chairs that circled a bright bonfire that burned through the evening. Parents of current students talked about their families. Alumnae exchanged tales or introduced spouses. It was a great atmosphere to relax with wine, pizzas, cold beer, burritos, cupcakes and cookies and other food items, all donated by supporters of the school.