Saturday evening, on a night when storm clouds threatened to drown the majority of South Florida, it was instead the Helmsmen who were overcome, not by any meteorological phenomenon, but by the brunt of their own success.
The Jupiter-based outfit debuted their second EP and first physical album, Mid Term, as well as a new music video for their latest single, “Ankles.” Like the venue, the restored and revitalized Kelsey Theater in Lake Park, the show marked the start of something, an addition to the music scene and the overall culture, that Palm Beach County could be proud of. The concert was the kickoff to a tour that runs through the rest of June, July, and into mid-August, with stops in every major city in Florida. It remains to be seen how Jacksonville, Miami, or Orlando will react to the band's self-described “island-indie” style, but the Kelsey Theater show was essentially on home turf. The crowd was always theirs, and not only did the Helmsmen not disappoint, they may have even exceeded the expectations of friends, family, and fans in attendance.
As polished as a national act that’s been touring for years, the Helmsmen began their set with the opening number and lead single off of Mid Term, “Rollercoaster,” a punchy, firecracker of a song that’s as sugary sweet as the cotton candy lead vocalist and ukulele maestro, Jesse Glendinning, sings about. Draped in matching, all-black shirts, pants, suspenders, and, bowties, the five-piece showed a uniformity and indeed a unity that extended far beyond their threads.
Beach balls and a stage-crashing, shirtless surfer dude who launched himself onto an unsuspecting crowd (they caught him) colored the show, but paled in comparison to the music itself. Mid Term branches out past the folksy, tender rhythms of their first EP, Homework. Employing the ukulele to full effect, guitarist Jacob Constantakos impressive guitar solos, and an added soulfulness to ska-happy tracks like “2 Weeks” via Derek Campbell’s cheery saxophone work, the Helmsmen have a sound that’s ever-expanding.
Another fun new wrinkle was the classic doo-wop/surf rock of “Time” that comes off like a Beach Boys and Dick Dale mashup. They bounced between genres with the as much gusto as the people in audience danced to the songs. The creativity didn’t end with the shifting soundscapes. Near the close of the evening, the Kelsey Theater, which also doubles as a proper film venue, dropped the lights and screened the video premier of “Ankles,” a breezy indie-rock groove reminiscent of Grouplove, in which the band sports full on Boy Scout attire. When the screen lifted and the curtains opened one last time for the encore, there stood the Helmsmen in the same Scout regalia to perform the single live.
Not satiated, the crowd chanted for one more, but alas, the Helmsmen had rocked too hard. “Ladies and gentleman,” Glendinning lamented, only half-jokingly, “We have broken the PA. Thank you for coming.” It was sincere gratitude considering some folks drove fair distances to attend, but all in all, it was absolutely worth it.