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Gem and Jam was held in Tucson, Arizona, had a line-up that no one wanted to miss, and was full of vendors and collectors selling their best and most beautiful crystals. Since plane tickets were a little too expensive, I decided to make the 12 hour plus drive to Arizona from central California. Although the drive was long, breaking it up by visiting Joshua Tree was a great pit-stop. Not only is Joshua Tree interesting and beautiful, but it also gives you the desert vibes that will prepare you for Arizona. Finally getting to Arizona was a relief. Walking around Tucson, there was interesting, funky, and cool street art all over the place. The homes had an obvious southwestern feel to them, with colorful paint like pink and turquoise, metal artwork of desert scenes and cacti framing the front door, and hot weather with mountains always in the background.

Friday

Friday had come and my energy was high. I was looking forward to being at a venue in a new state and experiencing all that Gem and Jam had to offer. Getting to the festival was easy; it was a 10 minute drive from where I was staying, parking was free, and waiting in line to get wristbands only took around 15 minutes. Friday’s lineup had variety and included Desert Dwellers, Paul Basic, a Purity Ring DJ set, The Motet, and more.

I started my night off watching Desert Dwellers and their unique downtempo sound was the perfect start to connect with the desert. They played on the main stage which was outdoors; the stage had crystal structures at the front of it, a huge projection screen to the back with beautiful, amazing, psychedelic patterns and designs displayed, an array of plants on stage, and intricate designs to the sides and front of the stage. Many people were swaying their bodies back and forth to the sacred sounds, and with both Amani and Treavor Moontribe playing later in the night, it was obvious that they were gaining momentum for the rest of the evening. Towards the end of their set, I went to sit down by a familiar jungle gym structure that is often at many other festivals and closed my eyes, feeling like I was floating through a psychedelic soundscape.

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A little after Desert Dwellers, Alex Grey was giving his entheogen talk on the inside stage. The stage inside was small, had cool crystal shapes made out of wood with multi-colored illuminations behind them, and a few plants on stage. I was interested in hearing Alex Grey’s talk, but the room was jam-packed from wall to wall with other interested festival participants, so I listened to a few sentences and went back outside. I wandered around to view all of the different vendors and the outskirts of the festival were filled with people selling unique jewelry, handmade clothing, awesome accessories, and of course, mind-blowing, beautiful crystals. No matter how many times I shopped around at different booths, I saw something new each time.

I went to the main stage to see Paul Basic, and people were getting down to his bass sounds. I had the pleasure of interviewing him earlier in the evening, and after speaking with him for a while, it was great to see him in his element and pleasing the crowd. Listening to someone’s music live is so much better when you’ve had a conversation with them, and can understand the heart and hard work that they put into their creative births. I slithered out of Paul Basic’s set a little early to go and catch Treavor Moontribe inside since the set inside was shorter than what was going on outside. Much like Desert Dwellers, Treavor Moontribe was sharing sounds that the crowd could both dance to and also put them into a more psychedelic head space. Everyone inside of the room was incredibly into what they were hearing, and my friend’s expressed how amazing the sounds that they were hearing were.

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Next, I went back outside to catch the Purity Ring DJ set. I had seen Purity Ring mid-2013 and really loved their performance, so I was interested in seeing their DJ set at Gem and Jam. The DJ set reminded me of classic, mellow Purity Ring mixed with hip-hop and other different samples. I enjoyed what I had heard, and also thought that it was an interesting little change of pace for Friday’s lineup. Finally, for the last act of the night, I stayed outside to watch The Motet. The Motet was ferociously funky, and the whole crowd was bouncing, dancing, happy, and hollering along with the jams. The live instruments and vocals were good for my soul, and I am positive that everyone else who experienced The Motet felt the same. The first day of Gem and Jam did not end on a mellow note, but ended on an electric, soulful one.

Saturday

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Friday was amazing, and I knew that Saturday was not going to let me down. As I walked past some local dudes who were outside of the festival entrance displaying the jewelry from their cases, I was getting more and more excited for a second day of Gem and Jam. I went to the inside stage to catch Nico Luminous, and he did not disappoint. The room was full of people who were gettin’ low and dancing their asses off to the heavy bass, and photographers were zooming around the room, snapping photos of people in their ultimate bliss. I could not stop my feet from moving, and although I had seen Nico Luminous multiple times, it was amazing being in a new location, with new and happy faces surrounding me, and being so close to the artist at work.

After Nico Luminous, I went outside to see Russ Liquid. Russ Liquid was soulful and groovy. And, come on, how could you not love the sound of a trumpet blasting while you’re getting your groove on? The energy was high during his set and it was only the beginning of the night. Unique sounds were filling the dance floor; it is no wonder why this guy has the following that he does. He jams like there is no tomorrow, and makes the listener forget about yesterday. After listening to Russ Liquid, Thriftworks came out on the main stage. Thriftworks was one of the musical acts that I was looking forward to the most on Saturday night, and he made me happy as a clam. The visuals on the projection screen behind him were elaborate and trippy, and he played some of my personal favorite such as “The Touch” and “Untrue.” His chill and uplifting music had me slowly rocking around the dance floor, and other Thriftworks fans had large smiles adorning their faces.

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Next was Bluetech on the inside stage. I went inside a little early so I could wiggle my way to a good view and ended up at the front of the stage, with little separating me from Evan. The shrubbery and woodwork on stage framed whoever was playing the inside stage perfectly, and multiple dancers and other performers were accompanying Bluetech as he played his signature sounds to an adoring audience. I couldn’t count the numbers of smiles that I saw at the inside stage and on Bluetech himself, even if I tried. Bluetech’s set took me through downtempo soundscapes that had me dreaming and elated. I felt that I was exploding at the seams from all of the wonderful music that I had heard that evening, and I made my way to the middle of the dance floor so some more people had a chance to be up close to the artist and his sound.

Last of the night was Mimosa, and his music was going to be a change of pace from that of Bluetech’s. I went outside to catch his set, and soon I was bouncing around to heavy bass and hip-hop. My neighbors were twerkin’ their hearts out as Mimosa was closing out the night, and Alex and Allyson Grey were painting their masterpieces alongside him. It is safe to say that he put some pep in my step before I had to leave Gem and Jam for the night, and I was looking forward to one more day of bliss.

Sunday

Sunday was the last day of Gem and Jam, and I although I was sad that the festival and my time in Tucson was coming to an end, I was excited for the last day which I knew would be a party. I started my night with Lynx, a badass woman who impressed the audience. Her folk sound, along with her singer-songwriter talents, were pretty calm and cool, but it was when she started beatboxing when the crowd went wild. It was refreshing, interesting, and dance-inducing when she started to beatbox, and I instantly became a fan.

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Govinda was after Lynx on the main stage, and he killed it. Govinda was groovy, funky, sexy, and I couldn’t stop dancing to the bass. Not only was his set awesome, but he upped the ante when he started jamming on his violin. It was obvious that I wasn’t the only one feeling his vibe, because when I looked around to my dance floor neighbors, I saw that they too were in musical bliss. Govinda’s long-time love of music and experimentation with it had paid off, and continues to do so, because it was one of my favorite sets of Gem and Jam.

After Govinda, Love and Light came out to the main stage. Riding the high energy that the audience still carried over from Govinda, Love and Light delivered a heart-felt, excited, and bounce-filled set that was pleasing not only to the ears, but to the heart as well. Gem and Jam was a festival where anyone could feel the heavy waves of love all around, and Love and Light picked up on this vibe, announcing that they would have to be back to Gem and Jam every year because of how wonderful it was. Once again, they played a couple of my favorites, and the male duo looked like kids in a candy store, watching the audience danced as they danced too.

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After Love and Light’s set, I went to sit on the jungle gym, and got situated for Random Rab. I was ready to just chill out and listen to Random Rab’s beautiful music, and I knew I was going to be taken on a melodic journey. He has an effortless and seamless way of connecting with all of his audience, and there was a large number of people on the dance floor as well as on the outskirts of the stage just relaxing and nodding their heads. With the addition of live instrumentals, his sound was organic and inspiring.

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Random Rab had ended and next was Kalya Scintilla. As he grooving along to his set, his music swept me on a journey that had me feeling like I was exploring through a sacred rainforest. Psychedelic projections were on screen behind him, fire dancers were at the sides of the stage, and Alex and Allyson Grey were also an on-stage presence, making the experience utterly magical. Each time an ancient “boom” sound emitted through the speakers, Kalya Scintilla moved his hands along with it, making him look like a magician of music. A little before he ended his set, I went inside to see Matt Haze, who was creating a completely different feeling inside than what was going on outside. The dance floor was bumpin’ and he was throwing it down hard. Although dressed proper, he was sharing some dirty beats with the crowd makin’ ‘em smile.

Last of the night and of Gem and Jam was Boombox. Boombox was an awaited act by many, and the crowd was moving back and forth with each other, dancing with their hearts and souls. Boombox is funky, has a disco vibe, and induces uncontrollable dancing. Their music makes you feel like you’re wearing tye-dye clothing on a shag carpet, listening to old records, and looking through rose-tinted glasses. I had my hands in the air and was wiggling my waist through their set. Boombox gives their listeners a warm-and-fuzzy feeling, and it was the perfect end to a more than perfect festival.

Conclusion

Gem and Jam in Tucson, Arizona was one of the best festivals I have been to. The vendors were selling unique and beautiful works, the crystals were mind-blowing and looked like things that you would only see in a fairytale, the artwork and live art that was innovative and mind-expanding, and the music was way more than words could describe. While I don’t think I could never be a person who lives in the desert, it was a beautiful experience to be in a new atmosphere and feel the desert vibes that Tucson had to offer. Although the drive from my home to Arizona was a long one, I would most definitely do it again to attend Gem and Jam next year, the year after, and the year after that. Nothing is better than a festival with heart and a family feeling, and Gem and Jam delivered exactly that.

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