On March 2, Hail! Cassius Neptune brought their Imperial March tour to The Bootleg at The Atomic Cowboy. The third stop of the tour brought a chance for St. Louis local, as well as guitar player for H!CN, Ethan Heller to show the rest of his band what our musical city is all about. The crowd brought the energy for a night of funky music featuring an opening performance by local artist J.D. Hughes & The Fuze.
J.D. Hughes & The Fuze features front-man J.D. Hughes (guitar/vocals), Andy Stephens (keys), Brian Ryback (saxophone), Theodore Brookins (Bass), Brady Lewish (Trumpet), and Gabe Bonfili (Drums). All members took the stage dressed in suave outfits, ready to impress the crowd with their musical talent. Their songs are mostly original compositions by Hughes, who shows a wide range of musical influences with a heavy 70’s aesthetic. The music doesn’t have a single brand, instead it’s a fusion of Jazz, Funk, Reggae, and whatever else feels right.
Hughes’ voice has a likeness to Dave Matthews, and his conscious lyrics inspire the mind. The feel-good lyrics, blended with funky bass lines and smooth horns, creates a unique musical experience that left us yearning for the coming Summer music festival days. Each artist highlighted their talent by sharing solos interspersed throughout the set that left the crowd excited to hear more. The band stayed attentive to one another and it was clear that they were enjoying their jams as much as the crowd did.
During their set, they also played a few original instrumental compositions by keyboardist Stephens. Hughes exclaimed that they liked taking risks, they had only played together for the first time the night before. We wouldn’t have been able to tell if they hadn’t told us, and we were seriously impressed by the cohesiveness they achieved last minute. Stephens talent on the keyboard was refreshing to witness. In the last half of the set a dance group broke out at the front of the crowd and palpable joy spread through the room. JD Hughes & The Fuze brought infectious happiness, a sense of community, and the purest form of local music pride—we can’t wait to see them again.
Next up was Hail! Cassius Neptune, from Asheville NC. Despite minor auto issues on the road to town they made it on time. Band members include Kylie Jo Stern (vocals), Wilson Stern (bass/vocals), Dee Natour (keyboard), Ethan Heller (guitar), and Josh Hintermister (drums). They played a mix of soulful original content and cover songs during their set. Front-woman, Kylie Jo, brings a truly unique and sultry vocal component to the stage. Her vocals are self-described as, “bring[ing] together Lauryn Hill’s sense of soul with Fiona Apple’s sense of humor.” Her cover of Nakamarra by Hiatus Kaiyote perfectly demonstrated her impressive vocal range.
Their style ranges from rock to funk to R&B, in which they use music as a form of artistic storytelling. Their lyrics move between serious and comedic, including a song titled “Puked on Stacey”. The band also invited two local musicians to the stage to share in collaborative expression—“Green Bean” on saxophone and flute and “Q” with a freestyle rap segment. It was nice to see a touring band welcome local talent with open arms. Green Bean captivated the audience as he accompanied the band on his flute in a cover of Summertime by George Gershwin.
One of our favorite songs of the set brought together each of their distinct components. The song “Mittens” features a unique mix of captivating ethereal vocals, rap and beat boxing, space-rock bass line, and rapid-fire drumming—all building up to a no holds barred jam crescendo. Hail! Cassius Neptune had the entire crown breaking out into dance, including the band members from The Fuze! They display an effortlessly powerful energy, it’s easy to find yourself getting lost in their cathartic jams. When the music ended, the crowd filed out all ready for the party to continue at another Grove establishment, energy still high from the funk filled dance party.
More photos from the event: