H-F’s homegrown rockers set to turn up Flossmoor Fest

Jon Elfner on guitar plays with Staff Infection at the Homewood Arts Council 0.3K run in September 2018. The band will be performing Saturday at Flossmoor Fest. (Chronicle file photo)
  Jon Elfner plays guitar with Staff Infection at the
Homewood Arts Council 0.3K run in September 2018.
The band will perform Saturday at Flossmoor Fest. 

(Chronicle file photo)
Staff Infection started rocking 18 years ago in the halls of Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

Since then, the band – it consists of H-F teachers, students and alums – has consistently delivered its classic sound, which music director Jon Elfner calls a mix of “Motown and horn-driven rock.”

A peek at Staff Infection‘s playlist gives a hint of what‘s in store when it plays at Flossmoor Fest on Saturday night. “Twist and Shout” is on the agenda. So are “Proud Mary,” and “Stand By Me” and “Respect,” much-beloved tunes from the ‘60s and ‘70s that are always lots of fun.
The band’s appearance marks the seventh time it’s appeared at Flossmoor Fest and the group’s 104th performance since Staff Infection began playing in 2002.
Saturday’s show also signals keyboardist Steve Sifner’s return to the band. Sifner, a 2009 H-F graduate, played with Staff Infection in high school. He earned a degree in music education from Indiana University and spent the next 10 years in Texas, as a middle school music teacher. This fall, he returned to H-F as the school’s choir director. And, Elfner said, it was perfectly natural that Sifner rejoin Staff Infection.
“During my time as an H-F student, I had a blast playing keys with Staff Infection and the South Side Horns,” Sifner told the Chronicle.
“It was a truly rare opportunity for me to collaborate with my teachers at H-F as a part of this group. I think it speaks volumes to the members of Staff Infection that they found a place for me and other students in their band when I was a student here.
“As a student playing with this group, it was memorable for several of us to play shows and be able to connect with our teachers outside of class. For 17-year-old-me, it gave me some perspective and reminded me that my teachers were complete human beings. They were talented people, and always a ton of fun to be around.”
Sifner said he’s excited to be working with “our phenomenal H-F students” and to be playing with Staff Infection again.
“There is certainly a lot of déjà vu. I am thrilled to be coming back home after being away the last 10 years.”
Elfner, a social studies teacher, founded Staff Infection with two other teachers – Brian Dvorkin and Jim Stedt. Dvorkin teaches physics and Stedt, who has since retired, taught special education.
“We had no idea what to expect the first time we went into a rehearsal room,” Elfner said. “But the engine just kept rolling.”
In 2006, the band added three more members of its central core – math teacher Paul Fasse, librarian Alicia Rodriguez and physics teacher Steve Banasiak. That was also the period when that Staff Infection rolled out its horn section, a move that significantly boosted the group’s signature sound. Over the years, a number of H-F students have contributed their talents to the South Side Horns. Elfner said as many as 50 students have participated in the band.
Staff Infection’s current lineup features Elfner and Fasse on guitar, Dvorkin on bass, Banasiak on trumpet, Sifner on keyboards and Rodriguez as singer. The band also includes H-F alums  Kai Harney (Class of 2012) on saxophone, Ty Staehlin (Class of 2012) on trombone, Geof Rinkenberger (Class of 2004) on drums and Lonnie Small (Class of 2007) on saxophone. Mark Swinford rounds out the horn section on trumpet and Christal Luster sings lead and background vocals.
Elfner was asked how Staff Infection has managed to stay together so long.  
"We have lasted longer than most bands,” he said. “The key is, the members really like each other. We are friends who would spend time together if we didn't play in a band together. That has been the secret to the longevity of the band."
Veteran blues guitarist John Randolph will be sitting in with Staff Infection at Flossmoor Fest, Elfner said. The band will play from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Other Flossmoor Fest musical groups include:
  • TiMELeSS at 2 p.m. This group of teen artists has been making music in the Chicago Southland since 2018, performing at block parties, restaurants, farmers markets, rallies and other venues. TiMELeSS plays a unique blend of pop, soul, and R&B.
  • Oliv Blu at 3 p.m. Oliv Blu, an H-F alum, participated in Season 16 of NBC's “The Voice,” making it all the way to the Top 13 live shows round. The alternative R&B singer/songwriter, when not pursuing her solo career, is an artist with FREESOLE, a music collective that originated in the South Suburbs. She debuted her sound in 2016 with the release of two hit singles, “No Love Song” and “Boomerang.” 
  • Dynamic Sound Band at 8 p.m. Dynamic Sound Band is, according to Flossmoor Fest promotional materials, “a stylistically unique R&B soul band. From day one, the members have been singing, performing and playing in sync as if they'd been together their entire musical careers.”

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