Where can you find fossilized tyrannosaurus rex, a $75,000 chunk of Tourmaline, an abundance of jewelry, visionary art, and vending that rivals any other vending at large gatherings, as well as a stellar lineup of glitchy bass, live jams, and good vibes? Tucson, AZ is the answer and the location of the 8th annual Gem & Jam. Lost in Sound is recharged from the energy in Tucson and ready to crush this festival circuit.
Gem & Jam has progressed incredibly since its inception and reached a peak in their 8th year of their 3 night fest. While growing each year, this event is still under the radar, drawing a smaller family crowd than other festivals and catering to the heady Tucson community and Arizona party schools. With its early in the year date and its home in Arizona, it hasn’t blown up to the proportions of other festivals, especially those going on for eight years. Do not let either of those things deter you from making it to this event. We know what can happen when a festival grows too big and mainstream.
If you are among those outside of Arizona who haven’t heard of this party – take notice. February each year, Tucson hosts a massive infusion of crystal power, good energy, and tons of heads, both movers and shakers in addition to international vendors at the annual Gem and Mineral show. Crystal miners, wholesalers, and connoisseurs fill just about every hotel, warehouse, and vacant lot in Tucson creating a marketplace and showroom of crystals, gem stones, minerals, fossils, jewelry, among other unique items. This all provides a one of a kind experience and shopping deals that you can’t find anywhere else, which filled the three days of the festival.
Euphonic Conceptions locked down three nights of wobbling tribal glitch, heavy bass lines and spacey psychedelic live jamming delivered by the best line-up the event has secured yet. The first night kicked off with Desert Dwellers on the main stage which delivered weaving tribal bass. Their set was impressive, and I like the direction they have been taking their music lately. Arizona native Macrodot also impressed with his blend of glitch and dubstep. On the indoor stage Krooked Drivers, a Denver based electronic music duo consisting of Maddy O’neal and Donnie Dalbora, dropped funky melodies and some infectious remixes, and they have a lot of potential. Check them out!
The night increased in energy quickly as Supervision and Paul Basic took the stage back to back, and kept the audience moving with two hours of electro breaks and bouncy beats. I recall a “Nightrider” theme that triggered a reminiscent smile. Coming off their earlier set, Trevor Moontribe and Amani of Desert Dwellers each played a set on the indoor stage. Trevor’s set was my favorite of the night, and the crowd responded making the indoor room bounce and move fluidly. Closing out the night was Unlimited Aspect, the duo of Unlimited Gravity and Project Aspect, their edgy glitch reminiscent of a more melodic 2NUTZ.
Night two started off with Lost Optical, a Denver based live jam and electronic production group. Their show was upbeat and high energy, with music ranging from dub to reggae, to funky beats and spontaneous improvisation. Los Angeles glitch producer Nico Luminous brought his booming 808 basslines and trademark glitch sound which made for a great dance party and amazing lead in for the lush downtempo set by Bluetech. Bluetech weaved a perfect set of downtempo SpaceHop from his new release, complimented by amazing dancers with giraffe oven mits. Check out Lost in Sound’s video to relive the magic. Thriftworks delivered his signature experimental bass perfect for melting minds, and Mimosa closed out the night.
The third night definitely had a more chill and psychedelic vibe, and everyone was in high spirits to close weekend strong. Spafford took the stage and grabbed attention, with a flashy and hype show setting the mood right. Lynx continued the live theme and added some eccentric visuals of nature and society, which perfectly complimented her rising vocals and live instrumentation. Govinda and Kalya Scintilla brought the energy back up with some of the best music of the weekend. Kalya played a good mix of material, keeping his set spacey and dark, sending the minds of the audience to the clouds. Love & Light is always fun, and their heavy bass and feel good remixes leave a smile on the face and wobbles in the legs. Random Rab performed with his band to welcome the sunrise.
Gem & Jam also showcases some of the top visionary artists. Alex Grey and his wife Allyson drew lines for signatures and merchandise that were bigger than stage attendance, at least on the first day. Alex and Allyson painted during the evenings on stage, and by Sunday they were dancing and getting down to the music with everyone else. The Welch Brothers (Jeremiah and Gabriel) headlined the live stage painting alongside Alex Grey and cemented their footing among the top visionary artists in the scene. These two young artists display amazing work ethic with changing styles and themes in their work, even painting and completing multiple new originals, in addition to their main piece on stage over the course of the weekend. Flooding the stage with light much of the weekend was Johnathan Singer, who executed perfect visuals to bring the crystal stage alive.
Lost in Sound had a chance to sit down briefly with Bluetech after his amazing throw down on the indoor stage on night two. Evan was outgoing and gracious as usual, and touched on a few topics during our talk. Commenting on his recent fan sourced album SpaceHop Chronicles Vol. 1, he shed light on his decision to release the album independently.
“I want to change the paradigm when it comes to releasing and selling music for the young producers out there. I have seen some of my favorite producers stop making their art because it doesn’t create a viable living.” – Evan Bartholomew, Bluetech
It is true that making music for sale has become more a tool for drawing the fans to your shows and selling more tickets as opposed to banking profits from record sales. Look forward to some new treats from Bluetech in the near future. He mentioned he will respond to the masses, and potentially tune down his music to the so called chakra-shaking Love frequency. After the interview, we saw him talking with Kalya Scintilla, so let’s hope for some new collaborations in the future.