Gem and Jam is an irreplicable and unique experience where concert-goers have the chance to be surrounded by live music, art installations, healing workshops, vendors, and of course, beautiful gems for three days.
I had the opportunity to go to the 14th annual Gem and Jam from February 4th - 6th, 2022, taking place at the Pima Country Fair Grounds in Tucson, AZ.
This was my first Gem and Jam, and I had no idea what a treat I was in for until I reached the venue. As I entered the Pima County Fairgrounds, it felt like I was back in the busy roads of India with food vendors on one side and the other having vendors selling goods such as handmade jewelry, artwork, tapestries, clothing, crystals, and other fun rave items. Once I made my way through the first group of vendors, I saw the stage in the distance. On my walk there, I could see under the cover that there were groups of painters that had easels with canvases that they painted live as performances went on. It was exciting to see the pre-stages of these artists' works and what they would transform into as time went on.
The first full set I got to see was MZG, and holy moly, did they bring the energy! The stage was set up with the performers on a raised platform with a screen behind them and a glowing quartz-shaped installation. During their set, this electronic duo danced enthusiastically and in sync at times; it was clear they were bouncing off each other’s energy, and in a chain reaction, the crowd could feel it too. With all their excitement, the seemingly stiff crowd, in the beginning, were all moving their feet, shaking their heads, and dancing to the beat by the end!
After MZG finished their set, I rushed to the indoor concert hall as the desert was not bringing the heat on Friday. I was not prepared for how cold it was going to be, but this ended up being a happy accident. As I entered the indoor hall, the first thing I noticed were the individuals in the back dancing with light-up hula hoops, batons, balls, whips, and all sorts of gadgets. After a small wait, Tripp ST entered with a bang! I had to leave shortly after the set started to find my friend, but on my way to her, I ended up stopping at a food vendor called Alchemy Coffee Roasters. And boy, was I in for a treat after receiving my hot honey vanilla coffee. It served two jobs that night: a delicious drink and an impromptu handwarmer.
Once I met up with my friend, we headed back to Onyx Stage and got the opportunity to see part of Daily Bread's performance. Afterward, we made our way to the main stage, aka the Emerald Stage for Liquid Stranger’s set, which I personally was the most excited to see. Liquid Stranger’s set was an immersive full-body experience where for a majority of the time, I felt the bass booming in my chest. The vibrant and trippy visuals paired with his lively jumping and dancing made it an enjoyable experience. Without a doubt, I danced the hardest during his set. The most memorable part of his show was when he brought out his buddy Wreckno on strange for a lively and hype performance of their song “Holla”. It was a nice surprise and most definitely was a crowd favorite; everyone was singing along!
On Saturday, my goal was to focus more on visiting the vendors and appreciating the artistic aspect of the festival since I focused primarily on the music aspect the first night. Across from where the painters were the first night, there were displays set up of paintings, and I honestly cannot remember the number of times my jaw dropped seeing all these talented artists' paintings. With the sheer raw talent, along with the obvious attention to detail, color selection, and concepts seen throughout the different paintings, I think I spent over an hour looking at all of the pieces.
When it came to the art installations and the attention to detail on the stages, I was extremely pleased! Each stage was beautifully set up and stuck to the theme, with the stages all being named after different rocks and minerals, which were the: Emerald, Onyx, Quartz, Opal, and Amethyst stages. It is clear Gem & Jam organizers, and artists know how to stick to a theme and go all out! In addition, there were many interactive art installations. A personal favorite of mine was the finger-dog-looking statues that felt like sturdy paper mache. My friend enjoyed a metal contraption with circles that could be climbed and sat on, almost like a glorified and cooler version of monkey bars.
In the realm of fashion, Gem & Jammers really brought their all out. The most common festival wear I noticed were trippy patterns, pashminas, colorful harem pants, tie-dyed pieces, and intricately patterned snapbacks. A personal fashion favorite of mine was during Lab Group’s set; a woman was dancing in a circle wearing a large handmade Squishmellow trenchcoat. Honestly, I think there were at least over 50 different Squishmellow plushies sewn on!
As for the vendors in every tent that I visited, the staff was extremely friendly, kind, and open. I ended up buying quite a lot of fun items that I cannot wait to wear and use at my next festival. Some memorable items I saw being sold were little handmade wired gem trees, animal patterned bandannas, and mushroom-shaped crystals. In addition, there was an added bit of personability when it came to purchasing from the vendors as a majority of items sold were either handmade, one of a kind, or took sustainability into account. Specifically, from one of the vendors, I purchased a swimsuit that was made out of recycled water bottles. I would have never thought in a million years that I would be wearing any clothing item made out of plastic water bottles! It is clear the vendors are dedicated and put a lot of thought into the execution of the products they sell.
It is hard for me to summarize the experience that Gem & Jam is in one sentence because it was so much more than just a music festival! It had so many different facets to it. At times it felt like I was in an alternate reality or on another planet. The amount of detail and dedication put into this event is out of this world! The organizers clearly care for the healing of their attendees provide art therapy the opportunity to be in the moment dancing to live music. With all this, they also give local artists and artists from all around the opportunity to share their creativity and sell their art to appreciating and warm individuals around them.
A big shoutout to Jamie and Hannah for being so accommodating and giving KAMP and me the opportunity to attend this year's Gem & Jam! You guys rock!