Gem and Jam takes place in the obscure yet quaint southwest city of Tucson, Arizona: a beautiful place to visit, with perfect weather for the late winter escapist vacation. Sprawling the entirety of the city is the Tuscon Gem Show, one of the world’s largest collection of gems, minerals, handmade and wholesale trinketry. People from all walks of life can be found with their folding tables, vinyl banners, collared shirts and twinkling hustler’s eye. If it’s shiny, naturally and or handmade, chances are you can find it in Tuscon at the gem show. An ultimate gold mine if you’re an intergalactic crystal nomad in search of a new reverse pocket watch or something of the likes. Needless to say, if your money is green you can literally buy millions of dollars worth of minerals with cash, a handshake and no questions.
Gem & Jam Music and Arts Festival, in it’s 9th year has become somewhat of an Olympics for experimental jewelry and psychedelic art. The event takes place within the confines of a horseshoe shaped arena, with a main stage and a smaller indoor club-like stage.
Around the circumference of the horseshoe are the some of the festival community’s finest artisans. The eye of the superstorm- that which, is The Tucson Gem Show. All around you there is art either on display or in a state of creation by one of the many vendors, live performers or painters. These heavily saturated creative environments are crucial to the mental health of artists and the greater community. This serves as a defibrillator so to speak, for the all too often disenchanted and disenfranchised artist’s heart. The gathering represents a catalyst of growth, mutation and much needed face time for artists and enthusiasts who often remain connected only through pixels and linear, text based conversation. Gem & Jam contributors and attendees create a powerful platform for some of the country’s most impressive creators from all mediums.
This year had a wide variety of musical acts, however, a few stuck out as exceptional, exciting and inspiring.
Hands down, The New Mastersounds took the cake. This UK live act brought an incredible high energy performance that had my toes dragging and fingers snappin’. From dub to funk and everything in between, these guys brought their A game, and had the entire sold out venue hypnotized and moving from beginning to end.
Adem Joel, a New Mexico Native in his second year performing at Gem & Jam, took the stage with his lovely sister for a first time collaborative performance. Their familial ties echoed beautifully into their live performance with confidence and style. We look forward to seeing more of what this producer/singer duo has to offer.
Lastly, metal worker Jason Burruss and Live Painter Andy Reed both brought their muti-medium A game to Gem & Jam this year. I have to give it up to these gentleman for not only contributing incredibly inspiring art to the community, but also providing soundscapes for the lifestyle and creation process. Both of their afterparty DJ sets were curated with precision and finesse, much like their primary visual art forms.
These days, multiple festivals and campouts are popping up every weekend nearly year round. It’s a beautiful thing to see people of all cultures celebrating their artists. However, there’s something different about Gem and Jam. It seems that the majority of everyone is there for a very specific reason. Maybe it’s the fact that everyone showers and sleeps in a house every night. Who knows. Maybe it’s that the event is a culmination and celebration of something bigger. No matter what anyone believes, crystals and all naturally made treasures of the earth are something to value and learn from.
In a time where faith in the dollar is dwindling, I foresee a trend of young adults seeking alternative forms of value and commerce; both with raw materials and handmade artisan goods. In one way or another ,Gem and Jam is facilitating an environment where artistic careers are made and handmade goods are being exchanged like stocks on the Nasdaq. I can’t help but to think of what the not so undercover cops thought of all the art. They probably went home with quite a bit to think about. I mean it’s the guys with the guns on their waists for a living that probably ought to see this sort of art the most. 😉