Broward New Times — 05.05.16
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Music
Angel Melendez

“ A” for “ Awesome”

Jupiter five-piece the Helmsmen earns top marks for its sunny, “island-indie” sound

Judging from the tinge of academia coloring everything the Helmsmen do — including their name, borrowed from their high-school mascot, and the titles of their debut EP, Homework, and forthcoming followup, MidTerm (out June 18) — you might assume the Jupiter five-piece is a bunch of geeks.

You’d be right. The self-described “islandindie” group consists of music nerds and dedicated students of songwriting. With their noses pressed to the books for the past year and a half, the bandmates are beginning to see the payoff for their diligence and talent.

Schoolmates at Jupiter Christian School, Helmsmen lead vocalist and ukulele player Jesse Glendinning and acoustic guitarist/saxophonist Derek Campbell met in kindergarten and grew up together at the private academy. But they weren’t just memorizing Bible passages. Together, they studied bands from every genre of music, including the Beach Boys, Billy Joel, Dream Theater, and the Zach Brown Band.

“I’ve been pretty much playing forever, since band in fourth grade,” Campbell says. “I was really into the saxophone until I got into guitar when I was 13, and I got serious about that.” He went on to study classical guitar at Full Sail University, where he also worked toward a degree in recording arts. “That’s been my whole life.”

Glendinning played alongside Campbell in the middle-school band, though he didn’t pick up the uke until college, where he taught himself to play in his free time. He describes himself as “late to the game,” watching Campbell dive into various musical projects through their friendship. But it’s the inclusion of his Hawaiian lute that lends the Helmsmen their signature tropical flair.

That’s not all that’s driving the band’s breezy, energizing folk-pop and easygoing surf sound. The Helmsmen combine the best elements of Jack Johnson’s radiant, positive lyrical bent and Death Cab for Cutie’s delicate, hook-laden songwriting with the rich instrumental harmonies of Kings of Convenience. Campbell’s jangly acoustic guitar overlaid with the searing work done by his electric counterpart, Jacob Constantakos, results in some truly sparkling sounds.

A couple of years younger than his bandmates, Constantakos also came up at JCS, bouncing among a handful of local bands before settling in with the Helmsmen. When he found himself out of a project, his mind went to Glendinning and Campbell. The trio immediately clicked.

Rounding out the remainder of the band are bassist Micko Paparo and drummer Samuel King, both of whom joined later on but who are no less essential. Whether they’re kicking up a ska ditty or kicking back on a slow jam, their sound is altogether lush. And for a band fairly new to the game, its tight performances and feel-good aura have already earned the group a solid following in and around the bandmates’ native Jupiter.

Armed with new music set for release this summer, the Helmsmen are aiming higher. “Rollercoaster” is the lead single and music video from MidTerm, which they filmed over three days in January at the South Florida Fair. It’s a bouncy number evoking the thrill of carnival rides and the uncomplicated joy of a night spent playing games and eating funnel cake.

Following a CD-release party in June, the Helmsmen will embark on a two-to-threemonth tour, stopping in several Florida cities and maybe a few other Southern states. After that, the possibilities are endless. Campbell, Constantakos, and Glendinning are clear that despite the fact they’re prepping for the unveiling of MidTerm, they’re still in the midst of penning new material.

Will an eventual full-length be the Final Exam?

“That’s why it’s called MidTerm,” Glendinning says, “because we want people to know there’s more to come. This won’t be the end.”

“Unless we go on a Field Trip,” Campbell quips.

“The tour might be called Summer Camp,” Constantakos can’t help but add.

The guys are quirky, clever, and, yes, nerdy. But their talent is serious, their work ethic can’t be beat, and their goodnatured, forthcoming attitudes help keep the Helmsmen at the top of their class.

Feedback@BrowardPalmBeach.com

Warm and Fuzzy

Analog sound and great acoustics make Trio Live! Ideal for grownup rock fans.

BY WENDY RHODES

If summer festival lineups, Billboard charts, and Snapchat stars counting hundreds of thousands of teen viewers are any indication, rap is the new pop in 2016. But here in South Florida, punkrockers NOFX still sell out a midsized venue like Revolution Live, homegrown minifests still boast post-hardcore acts like Further Seems Forever, and aging legends like Van Halen and Mötorhead were still some of the most exciting acts to breeze through our muggy environs in the past year.

Earlier this year, a new venue in Fort Lauderdale cropped up bolstering the idea that at least for us, rock is far from dead. Located upstairs from Trio Bierhaus and Trio Bistro along Commercial Boulevard, Trio Live! Is the latest local nightclub shooting big for that old rock ’n’ roll glory.

Its grand opening in February found the club at capacity three times over. Its main draw? For grownup fans who might not have the patience for grungy bars offering similar styles of music, Trio offers high production values in an upscale atmosphere with a more laid-back crowd.

“We don’t water down our music, and we don’t water down our drinks,” Trio’s co-manager Bill Murphy laughs over a busy weekend night. With experience spanning radio, singing lead in the local band Nobody’s Fault, and freelance record engineering, Murphy’s music chops inform his work raising Trio as a higher-end venue for rock patrons. He often runs the club’s mixing board himself.

Co-manager Michael Mark also claims past experience as a radio DJ and has run bars and nightclubs for 35 years. He knows what it takes to make the business side of things work — but not at the expense of excellence. “These clubs all just take these bands in because they’re looking for the numbers; they are not looking for quality,” he says. “They’re looking for whoever puts the most asses in seats and sells the most drinks.”

With Trio Live! Murphy and Mark cut out the fat for discerning music lovers, booking bands only once they’ve met the venue’s rigorous standards. “We want people to know that they can come here reliably and consistently for quality music,” Mark says, recognizing that with a venture as precarious as a nightclub, their reputation is at stake every night.

Though Trio’s programming emphasizes rock music, it offers a little something for everyone. Wednesday is blues night with the South Florida Blues Society, and Thursday is jazz night with Madd- Jazz Presents with the Maddox Music Group. Comedy shows happen once a month with acoustic and solo acts warming up the crowd on those nights.

But on Friday and Saturday nights, expect nothing but sweet, face-melting rock ’n’ roll. The classic American style is meant to be played loud, and Trio is generous with its ampage. But since the venue has been painstakingly optimized for killer acoustics, patrons can still carry on conversations without having to yell. “We’re more of an intimate club,” Murphy says.

“We’re not a high-ceiling, warehouse-style venue. The big star of this club is the sound — we have an outstanding sound system. When this place was built, someone really did their homework and assembled it to be acoustically perfect.” In fact, the entire sound system is analog, giving discriminating music lovers the raw, grainy character they crave but can rarely find.

Murphy and Mark haven’t done much advertising beyond Facebook, friends, and word-of-mouth referrals, but word has spread fast, with quite a few local club owners coming around to admire their unique analog system.

“We’re old-school guys... There’s other clubs in the area that offer live music and have Djs, but I don’t think there’s anybody who’s really trying to bring back from our generation what’s been lacking in Fort Lauderdale for a long time, which is an old-school music room with good, clean sound,” says Mark.

With an all-vinyl night, Mark and Murphy hope to catch some of the resurgent record wave. “That guitar isn’t crystal-clear, but you can hear the guys’ fingers sliding down the guitar — people want that stuff,” Mark says. “Digital is great, but it’s never been able to capture the beauty and sound quality of analog.”

Self-professed music connoisseurs Rick Briscoe and Donna Callahan make the drive to Trio all the way from Lake Worth several times a month. “We come for the music. The acoustics, the sound, and the dance floor are just fantastic,” Callahan says, slathering an enormous Bavarian Bier Pretzel with beer mustard. Trio offers a full bar and reserved seating at stage-front tables with plush cloth chairs. A full menu is available for the latenight crowd until 11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Trio Live!

2871 E. Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Open Wednesday to Saturday from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. No cover charge most nights. Call 954-372-8820.
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