Cover photo by Silky Shots
Article co-written by Sarah Shepis
Gem and Jam Festival of Tucson, AZ returned for its 14th edition on February 4th- 6th, 2022. Though the crowd count this year was the largest to date, the event grounds felt as home-y as ever.
To us AZ locals, this festival is dear to our hearts and gets flashier with every edition. This community of attendees is unique and shines bright with elements of positivity, playfulness, and self-exploration.
The Gems of the Jams
The first day of the festival began with collective enthusiasm, as the opening gates were met by a long line of eager gem & jammers, ready to set up camp and boogie the day away. If attendees prioritized the festival grounds over the campgrounds, there were workshops as early as 10 AM, including the crystal singing bowl sound bath by Lauren Moore. Sunnrays and Geo Star were the first musical artists on the lineup at noon, so attendees could hop right into the jams after setting up camp. The Quartz and Opal stages set the tone of warm, funky, vibes as the music and strong desert wind blew away the crowd, literally and metaphorically.
The main stage, Emerald, popped off at 5 PM with a soulful set by Random Rab. The crowd was growing by the minute and they were just getting started. By the time Rising Appalachia took over, the audience was in full force and soaking in the beautiful acoustic melodies of these multi-instrumentalist sisters. The folk-inspired music and setting sun was a hippie’s dream come true. The Onyx stage was also heating up with performances by Angelic Root, Tripp St, and Daily Bread. Later on, Lotus and Wreckno brought in the perfect night vibes.
The silent disco was held at the Opal stage from midnight to four in the morning, inviting a unique experience (and volume control) for those that wanted to choose their own adventure. Although the silent disco artists could not be heard from afar, they were bringing down heavy bass vibrations into the ears of headphone-yielders. Each time slot had two options for your listening pleasure, including TXNY/Mastuh, Lavender/Tree Gaud, Veloces/Fairydvst, and a final hour of tunage by the Emerald Bass Collective. The customizable experience of the silent disco was a huge hit for those that sought after a music-filled late-night under the starry desert sky.
Photo by Greg B
Saturday at a festival, it’s officially game day… Moontricks started off the night and took us on a sunset journey into folk heaven. Maddy O’Neal into Opiuo, followed by Dirtwire set the scene for an evening filled with lots of dancing and great company. This funky bass into folktronica itinerary created diversity in atmospheres throughout the event. Even the extreme winds and desert cold could not hold us back from celebrating to the fullest.
Coming all the way from the U.K, Shpongle closed out the Emerald stage Saturday night with his unique Psytrance electronica. The combination of intricate visuals and belly dancing by The Ish Factor, made for a powerful and memorable performance.
Photo by Silky Shots
After everyone was considerably Shpongled, the crowd moved inside to the warmer Onyx stage to shed some layers and get down with the huge house DJs – jackLNDN and the father of DirtyBird Records himself, Claude VonStroke.
To re-energize the attendee bodies for the long night of dancing ahead, the Sunday workshop schedule was bountiful – including cellular renewal yoga, chakra awakening, and even a workshop titled “Get Loose.” How else would you want to get in order to really work the impending grooves through your body?
The final day of the fest was as eagerly awaited as day one. With headliners like Saqi, Sunsquabi, Atyya, STS9 (a prized returning feature), and Melvin Seals & JGB – festival attendees were slated to enjoy every last drop of the musical offerings Gem & Jam was serving.
Photo by John Verwey
Other Noteworthy Mentions
The Opal Stage (curated by AZ local Jeremiah Christo) really brought its A-game this year, hosting music from noon to 3am each night. The gratitude of the local community was felt near and far as the smorgasbord of diverse sounds vibrated through the top-notch speakers. To the left of this stage, AZ powerhouse IDGFNK hosted an art-activation area of live painters, vendors, and good vibes. This was a special place to go in between headliners and to support the impeccable talent of the AZ music scene. The stage was perfectly set up with captivating visuals and performance artists to complement. On Sunday evening- Jeremiah himself, (performing as JXChristo) followed another Flagstaff local, Lilindigo, and brought the funky, space-bass sounds that really get the community down and dirty, featuring samples from the most hype rap and trap hits of the early 2000s.
The high-spirited atmosphere of the community was accentuated by large structures such as jungle gyms galore, a mysterious inflatable igloo-shaped dome with surprise performances, and live painters. For the workshop aficionados, The Amethyst Stage and Topaz Healing Sanctuary stood out with their wide range of activities. Here, you choose what floats your boat for the daytime. Workshop highlights from 2022 include the Ayurveda Basics, yoga, a hip-hop dance class, and a contact staff workshop. Nothing like coming home with new skills and inspirations, and this is what separates these transformational festivals from any other event.
Jammers took advantage of the diverse and delectable food options available, all weekend long. Some favorites include the Grilled Cheese Incident, (serving up gourmet grilled cheeses), North Indian Cuisine (with authentic curries, samosas [my favorite!] and naan), and Kalikos Hawaiian kitchen ( Hawaiian and Japanese classics, including one of the best poke bowls we’ve ever had). Vegan options were graciously provided by Super Heady Tacos, Gaia, Square Root Burger, and Funky Pita. Yummmm. We are hungry just reminiscing on these succulent spreads.
Photo by Silky Shots