Revel in Darkness With N3ptune and Rusty Steve at the Bluebird Theater

N3ptune and Rusty Steve play the Bluebird Theater on March 31.
N3ptune and Rusty Steve play the Bluebird Theater on March 31. Kori Hazel
N3ptune is confident that his performance with Rusty Steve at the Bluebird Theater on Friday, March 31, will exceed all expectations. "Without a shred of doubt, it's next-level," the musician says. "Denver has not seen anything like this from its own."

N3ptune's passion for music and performance art stems from the gospel music he was exposed to as a child while growing up in a religious family. He was inspired "watching what gospel music did to people every Sunday, seeing how people could just lose themselves unapologetically," he recalls. "All the kids, of course, we were laughing at the folks who were slamming the spirit, the whooping and hollering. What was, and to this day [is], just so mesmerizing is watching people just be able to whoop and holler out and just feel something just so outer-worldly."

Although N3ptune's church-going, gospel-filled background is an integral part of his love for music, it also fuels his passionate devotion for subverting expectations — especially those surrounding queer Black men. "I think the perspective is what really, truly makes [the music] unique, because it's coming from...somebody who's Black, grew up in church — not necessarily kicked out, but just hasn't had an easy upbringing," he says, emphasizing the impact the church had on the creation of his identity. "I speak from the perspective of somebody who bucks back at that."

N3ptune, a headliner at last year's Westword Music Showcase and the subject of our cover story, isn't afraid of being authentic, and his bold, raw, in-your-face presentation is deliberate. "When we see gay Black men and we see queer Black men portrayed in the media, it's very watered down. It's very whitewashed. It's very bleached, it fits white comfortability. ... It's never just truly what we experience and what we go through, and just our thoughts," he emphasizes. "I'd like to think that my perspective as a queer Black man that doesn't really conform to what is pushed by mainstream media is what makes it truly unique and really amplifies the identity itself."

That boundary-pushing attitude has worked well for N3ptune, catapulting his music career into something larger than a local gig. He's already run coastal tours, performed at major venues like Red Rocks and Ball Arena, and released the well-received album RENAISSANCE with his collaborator, Rusty Steve, in 2021.
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N3ptune and Rusty Steve.

N3ptune met Steve at the University of Colorado Denver's LYNX National Arts and Music Camp in 2015, when Steve was sixteen and N3ptune was seventeen. "We just hit it off. We actually wrote a song together at that camp and performed together," notes Steve. The artists went their separate ways after their brief collaboration at the camp, but in 2019 they reconnected when Steve recruited N3ptune as a model for his fashion show. "After that fashion show, I had this beat, and we were just hanging out in my basement," Steve recalls. "He just laid a verse on that beat...and then ["Sorry, Not Sorry"] came out."

N3ptune and Rusty Steve's collaborative process is a flow of ideas, beats and verses that resulted in RENAISSANCE, which blends pop, hip-hop, electronic and R&B into a powerfully honest, emotional work of art. An extended version of that album, RENAISSANCE (THE REVIVAL), dropped earlier this year on all streaming platforms, as well.

"It's a lot of us just in my room. I'll have an instrumental already made, and N3ptune will have something written, and it'll just kinda fit together, and we'll just have N3ptune record it," Steve explains of their creative process. "[For] one of our songs we are working on now, I just played a note on the piano, and then N3ptune came up with this humming thing, and we looped that. It just kind of flows like that."

The pair is excited to share some new creations at the Bluebird show, too. "There's gonna be a lot of new music, a lot of dancing, and N3ptune would say there's gonna be a lot of ass," Steve chuckles. "I'm definitely going to be in that crowd, fucking jumping around." 

It's clear N3ptune and Steve have sunk their heart and souls into the concert. "It's a high-production show. It's very intricate," N3ptune promises. "Bring up anybody you them, they ain't did this. Nobody has done this."
Both artists want the performance to be a source of inspiration and, most important, to provide a place where audience members can express their darker emotions.

"Everyone can just come and be free and release. There's so much going on in the world; it's just a place where people can come and almost be free of those things, but at the same time not be ignorant of what's going on," N3ptune explains. "A place where we can rage, a place where we can dance, a place where we can cry, a place where we can sing, a place where we can laugh. The show is the place where you can express your dark side."

N3ptune and Rusty Steve play the Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue, at 7 p.m. Friday, March 31. Tickets are $16 to $25.
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