Gem and Jam: Tuscon's 10th Year of Wonder

A delight to the senses, Gem and Jam’s 10th anniversary was a whirlwind of color and sound. The production level this year was off the charts, with whimsical stages, mind-boggling performance artists, including the infamous Zoe Jakes, and every corner of the festival site packed to the brim with interactive installations. Familiar installations such as the dome appeared, but with improvements, including an interactive key that would unlock a display of light and color electrocuting through the walls of the dome. New installations, such as projection mapping of Chris Dyer’s artwork also stunned festivalgoers.

Photo by Madi Lawton

The vendors also multiplied from years past at Gem and Jam. Attendees gazed with widened eyes at of the most well-known artistic geniuses and craftsmen such as Jason Burras, Third Eye Pinecones, Lost Sailor Designs, and many more. Art was spilling over every side of the fest, with live painters no matter which direction you looked. The talent was absolutely overflowing as Gem and Jam served as a hub for creativity in its tenth year.

Photo by Madi Lawton

Photo by Madi Lawton

Photo by Madi Lawton

Day one brought the feels. Astronauts from across the globe gathered for Tuscon’s amazing gem culture as well as Gem and Jam’s music. As they walked through the gate, they entered a parallel universe. Templo set the mood with their atmospheric other-worldly sound. Making their way to the main Quartz stage, attendees were greeted by spirals and visions, and a tunnel of rainbows serving as a portal to the main event. Eliot Lipp kicked off the main stage righteously with his Pretty Lights Music sound. Next, Michal Menert absolutely murked it; Space Jazz sent Gem and Jam’s astronauts into another dimension. JMac, a.k.a. Manic Focus, surprised everyone by coming out on stage with Michal, and Manic Menert blew us all away. Meandering around the vendors, the most delicious vegan minestrone and nachos you’ve ever tasted sat beside a meditation dome. Meanwhile, Tycho’s set was absolutely hypnotizing. Mesmerizingly beautiful vibrations flowed out into the crowd, a feeling of love and unity washing over the festival. Finally, Minnesota and Krooked Drivers closed out night one. Their uniquely different but equally crunchy styles were the perfect fit to celebrate the end of the first day of this incredible festival.

Photo by Madi Lawton

Saturday was equally as amazing, but with more theatrics and splendor in terms of music. Dirtwire was a powerhouse at Quartz, a perfect contendor for Gem and Jam’s vibes, followed exquisitely by Govinda. Live performances from dancers and performance artists accompanied the set, adding an element of mystery and wonder. Next, Desert Dwellers brought the heart of the desert back to Tuscon, with illuminations of vision quests and self-discovery. IAMNOBODI and Polish Ambassador brought sincerely different sounds to the Onyx and Quartz stage, respectively. Polish got down with those tribal-esque danceable beats, with subtle messages of enlightenment and cocreation. Beats Antique brought a grand finale to day two on the Quartz stage. A circus all in its own, these performers are unlike any other. Theatrics galore, Zoe Jakes is an inspiration to behold. Every member of Beats lets their passion shine through in their craft, captivating the audience with their every move. Zoe brought out a gigantic drum, stepping to the front of the stage, making intense eye contact with the crowd, and drumming to the beat like her life depended on it. An unforgettable experience, Beats has that extra stage presence that can be hard to find in such a saturated music scene.

Photo by Madi Lawton

Last but not least, day three brought the funk, with Marvel Years, Break Science, and Lettuce all doing it up right. Dynohunter and Marvel Years both brought those danceable vibes, and even though it was still pretty early in the night, everyone was getting down. Manic Focus absolutely crushed it using his unique set up, allowing interaction between movement and sound. Jmac was getting down up there, going all out, and his fans reciprocated. Exmag followed on the Jade stage, belting out those sexy sounds they are infamous for. Meanwhile, Break Science featuring the Shady Horns slayed the Quartz stage. Lettuce closed out the night, bringing that funky brass sound that infects your soul.

Photo by Madi Lawton

Photo by Madi Lawton

Photo by Madi Lawton

Photo by Madi Lawton

Photo by Madi Lawton

Article written by Hanna Danecker