In the quaint and dusty town of Tucson, Arizona there’s a jewel of a boutique camping festival going to great lengths to be different, with phenomenal results. As a beacon to gem lovers and wire wrappers throughout regional festival circuits, Gem & Jam is one of the few events today that actually showcases a smorgasbord of stones that are purported to have metaphysical (even spiritual) qualities while also delivering a variety of phenomenal jam bands including: the Trancident (featuring Michael Kang, Kyle Hollingsworth, Michael Travis and Jason Hann of the String Cheese Incident), the Floozies and Lotus – just for a few. With this year marking eleven years running, Gem & Jam is easily one of the most unique, homegrown communities in the country.
Photo by John Verwey
Without knowing much about the value of the gems on display, its safe to say that the sparkles seen across the landscape of the marketplace made window shopping an otherworldly experience. Even though there were lots of shiny distractions it was nice to see the art still got plenty of the spotlight. The lineup of live painters delivered performances from visionary arts pioneers like Chris Dyer, Vajra, the Welch Brothers, Seth McMahon, Peter Goode, Dela and many more. The art installations were next level too. In several different installations peppered through the Pima County Fairgrounds, structures were fixed with projectors that created psychedelic designs with ominously dancing shadows. A few of these installations beamed dazzling animations and some were fully interactive so that they could be entered and controlled from within. The folks at Core Natural even setup a booth to give away water where you could actually become the art and get a body part tie-dyed. To top it all off, the Quartz Stage was designed by Symbiotic Creations, the same folks who created the culturally defining stage at Desert Hearts Festival.
Photo by John Verwey
One of the most marvelous aspects that make Gem & Jam worth the drive from out-of-state is without a doubt, the people. It’s such an intimate gathering that most at the event seemed to know eachother and those who happened to be strangers were best buds by Sunday. Perhaps the alchemy of all the rare stones was at work, or maybe there was an energy in the music from the lineup stacked with top-shelf talent for an outside-the-box sound. Either way, it’s likely that the magic at Gem & Jam has a lot to do with their signature approach to conscious community and a courage to show up with an experimental style that’s all their own. Specifically, Gem & Jam doesn’t try to draw the droves that would typically converge at a more popular event. Instead, the extraordinary festival attracts heady artists and jam band enthusiasts for a weekend chock full of authentically badass art, dust-covered bliss on the dancefloor and a refined yet gritty vibe that absolutely rocks.
Featured Photo by John Verwey