Local bands play for charity at the second annual Spenard Prom

Rachel Kenshalo
Joel Adams

For many of us, high school prom doesn't live up to the hype. Paper streamers do little to transform the school gymnasium; your date's awkwardness is only bested by your own; and the clear plastic shoes you bought in order to look like Cinderella just end up foggy from your sweaty feet.

If your prom experience fell short of your expectations, fear not: You have a second chance, and for a good cause.

The second annual Spenard Prom is an opportunity to dust off your finest duds and cut a rug to three local bands and two DJs, with all proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. The event was the brainchild of the local alt-rock band The Modern Savage's lead singer, Jenni May Toro.

For her day job, Toro works at an oncology center and has grown close to many of the patients there. "I've had an opportunity to become immersed in the daily reality of people fighting cancer," she said. "Last year, a good friend of mine had lost her daughter at a young age to cancer and encouraged me to participate in Relay for Life. I said, 'Let me do you one better,' and that's basically how (Spenard Prom) started."

Toro's dad was diagnosed with leukemia in March, so the event has become even more meaningful for her.

"It's been difficult. Everyone knows somebody affected by cancer," Toro explained. "It affects our whole community, and so this event is really about people giving back in a fun and lively atmosphere."

The Modern Savage is headlining the event. The homegrown band, formerly known as The Young Guns, is gaining recognition for their brand of hook-driven pop-rock, having performed on just about every stage in town and recently releasing a well-received self-titled EP. A full-length album is planned for this summer.

Toro said some of her inspirations are '80s pop, which becomes clear in punchy tracks like "Shake" and "High Frequency." Much of the EP features plenty of dance rhythms, with Toro's crisp voice floating over jagged guitars lines and synthesizer melodies.

"We try not to put limits on ourselves, but we love pop and maybe could potentially get to that Top 40 genre. But we also like to get more alternative at times, and we love our dirty rock 'n' roll music," explained Toro. "We are happy as long as we're continuing to be creative and writing music organically."

The Modern Savage will be joined at Spenard Prom by singer-songwriter Seth Boyer, indie-pop band Turquoise Boy and DJs Alex the Lion and Mostly Ghostly.

"We got lots of crazy looks last year about hosting a Spenard Prom," Toro offered. "But we wanted it to be tongue-in-cheek, a stark contrast to the black-tie charity events. We didn't want a sad and somber event -- we wanted a more lively atmosphere."

The idea resonated within the local music community.

"The bands and DJs have agreed to play for free, when they could be missing out on even better gigs -- ones that pay," Toro said, "but I think they understand the importance of this community event, and how meaningful it is, and how much fun they'll have."

By Rachel Kenshalo
Daily News correspondent