By: Christian Cortes
The 2015 festival season kicks off with a bang in Tucson, AZ from February 6-8 with the ninth annual Gem & Jam. This one-of-a-kind electronic festival has found a home in the “Old Pueblo” during the largest and most prestigious gem and mineral showcase in the world, giving it untold amounts of creative energy to draw upon while many American cities remain locked in bitter winter weather.
As untold volumes of mineral professionals flow into Arizona’s progressive refuge for over two weeks of exhibits, seminars and sales, so do thousands of electronic music devotees seeking a sip from the grail of psychedelic art, music and crystal culture that is the Gem & Jam festival. Tucson is thus transformed, if only for a short time, into a counterculture energy center where travelers of the world and mind drink in the local-first attitude and breathtaking natural scenery of southern Arizona, hopefully discovering a climate ripe for learning, healing, and sensory exploration.
Appealing to multigenerational music and dance lovers, this year’s Gem & Jam experience offers a spectral assortment of trippy bass, jamtronica, electro-funk, downtempo electronica, and world beats accented by the transcendent real-time visuals of Johnathan Singer. Performances by Emancipator Ensemble, Papadosio, Michal Menert Trio, Random Rab, Phutureprimitive, Thriftworks, Andreilien, VibeSquaD, Kaminanda, and more will delight fans from across the sonic spectrum.
Add to this the return of visionary artist and cosmic philosopher Alex Grey, whose otherworldly psychedelic art has inspired a generation of traditional and digital artists reaching for higher levels of awareness, and combine with festival-seasoned vendors and live painters from around the country, and you have the fixings for an extrasensory weekend event unlike anything else in the festival circuit.
Beyond the allure of music, art and dance on the festival grounds is the trove of Gem & Jam workshops and afterparties happening at neighboring spaces Solar Culture and the Galactic Center just a few miles away. These art gallery, music venue, and healing sanctuary hybrid spaces will flow with the sights and sounds of the transformational movement before and after the festival each day, providing a pleasurable environment for early starters to channel their energy and night owls to decompress. Over a dozen workshops will touch on everything from creative movement and flow arts to psychic exploration and natural healing, providing ample opportunities for attendees to hone their abilities and develop new ones.
Artists seeking a greater understanding of visionary iconography and entheogenic states should check out Alex Grey and Allyson Grey’s “Gems of Awareness” workshop on Saturday as the married duo probes the cultural depths of the mystical experience through vision practices, group discussions and of course, art!
For those who will be in town before the main event on Friday, the official Tucson Gem & Jam pre-party will be popping off the night before at downtown artisan space Maker House. A medley of sights and sounds will converge as seasoned and local producers come together with vendors, artists, and performers for a vibe-gathering night of merriment and scene absorption. This will be a great opportunity to sample the tone of the festival, meet some friendly faces and get your bearings before plotting your weekend journey.
Walking access to downtown Tucson and the iconic Fourth Avenue from Solar Culture will lend added substance to smooth your explorations each day. Most Tucson locals will agree that unless you’re partaking in the natural offerings surrounding town—desert hiking trails line its perimeter and the woodland haven of Mount Lemmon is less than an hour’s drive away—most of the fun is happening in the heart of Tucson near downtown. Whether you seek gourmet coffee, late-night pizza slices, deli fare, or craft beer, you’ll find no shortage of destinations to tantalize your senses. Whatever your heart craves or your taste buds seek, just ask a local and let the adventure unfold between nights at the festival. You might be surprised by the treasures you find!
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