February saw the return of Gem & Jam Festival, as if we needed more reason to travel to Tucson for the annual International Gem & Mineral Show, the largest collection of raw and cut stones in the world. Over half a million people came through the area during the two week bazaar – it was a mindblowing spectacle and we stocked up on crystals and gemstones we didn’t even know we wanted! We scooped deals at the marketplaces sprawled through the streets and hotels by day and got down while witnessing incredible live artwork at night.
After a 3 year hiatus, Gem & Jam retured for it’s 7th year stronger than ever with two stacked stages. A collaboration between Euphonic Conceptions, Infinite Music Productions, Challenger, and New Earth MuZIQ, the event brought out some of the biggest names in West Coast bass music and visionary art, including:
Alex Grey, Allyson Grey, Damon Soule, Oliver Vernon, and Des10 painting and music by Michal Menert, NiT GriT, Vibesquad, Random Rab, Polish Ambassador, Russ Liquid, Thriftworks, Kaminanda, Signal Path, Octopus Nebula, Future Simple Project, kLL sMTH, and many more. Colorado was well represented and we got to see some fresh new acts we haven’t caught before.
As we walked onto the field, our buddy Smokovich was playing the theme from “Revenge of the Nerds.” Barrel fires burned to chase away the desert night chill, and the crowd rotated between stages, intricate altars and thoughtfully constructed hangout spaces, and irresistible merch booths. It was a relaxed and intimate atmosphere, so many of the artists took the opportunity to try out new and experimental material. All of the artists above killed it, as did many others, here are some highlights:
Live art of all types was blooming throughout the festival, lending to the creative vibe that Tucson cultivated that weekend. Throughout the grounds, live painters and creationists alike allowed the music to infuse their art with love and good vibrations. Oliver Vernon and Damon Soule graced the main stage all weekend long, bringing to life amazing works of art. Along with them, other live painters from around the country worked tirelessly, capturing the weekend through their creations. Android Jones had a booth with some of his works, including the incredible Union piece.
One highlight of the weekend was the appearance and work of the incredible Alex Grey. Beside his wife, Allyson Grey, he worked over two nights to create a unique and captivating piece of visionary art. The attention to detail he puts into his painting is something to marvel at, working each line multiple times to get it just right, examining his progress from different angles, moving his body to the music. It was an inspiration to see him in action. He even humbly gave time each night to his throngs of fans, signing merchandise, receiving gifts, and carrying on conversations with each person that approached him.
The late-night highlight was the Temple of Eden for those lucky enough to hear about it. A beautiful couple hosts it in their art space during the Gem Show and other events, providing a place for people to come socialize in a safe and mellow environment, unwind and bliss out. They greeted us with hugs at the door, accepting donations but not asking for them and setting the tone for the transition from outdoor music festival to new-age chillspace.
There were a hundred pillows to sit on, a chocolate fountain, tea ceremonies, a little dance floor where Random Rab spun a late-night set of course, a giant crystal ball in the middle, and small plaster caves in the corners to find little niches in. Everyone there was dialed and understanding the overall intention and potential of the event we had just shared and our community at large; it was a beautiful way to cap off an amazing weekend!
We ran into old friends and made new ones, confirming that a new core of artists, healers, and entrepreneurs are rising to prominence in our scene. The leaders of various factions are connecting and communicating and the more we converge in the same spaces with the vision of creating something interesting and meaningful, the more it feels like we are on the path. Thanks to everyone involved with all aspects of Gem & Jam and the Temple of Eden, we can feel this is just the beginning of another epic festival season that will see more mind-melding artwork, growth and evolution for all!