“We model the Earth’s crystals in the sacred geometry of higher consciousness that we’re familiar with through inner-journeying,” Alex Grey explains to a spellbound crowd of neo-hippies and soul searchers. Behind him his intricate art is projected dramatically on the stage and the moon is glinting through a cloud-streaked sky. “They keep in our mind the creative imagination, and gems have always caught the attention of humanity. They have been brought into all sacred objects because they are seen to be a touchstone to that visionary dimension. These special connections with the Earth give us the cosmic wink that the Goddess is everywhere.” The air is warm and carries the soft scent of sand and burning Palo Santo wood. The crowd’s energy is electric and yet full of mindful intention in gathering to celebrate creativity, new electronic music, and of course- some really cool rocks.
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This year’s 8th annual Gem and Jam festival in Tucson, Arizona was the biggest and most beautiful one yet according to attendees and organizers alike. The festival has been a part of the legendary Tucson Gem Show since 2007, but in the past few years has grown dramatically by teaming up with like-minded promotion teams such as The Do Lab. Though some made the trip for the music festival alone, most also came to take part in the biggest gem and mineral trade show in the world. Almost 55,000 people come to vend and buy precious stones and minerals from the 40 different shows across the city. Parking lots were packed with huge white tents that popped up out of nowhere, and dozens of hotels were gutted and taken over by vendors from across the world for two weeks every February. Vendors lined the streets with boxes and boxes of precious and semi-precious stones for sale and display and every year the entire city comes alive with glowing crystals and sparkling geodes.
At the Gem and Jam festival, which took place Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, we saw some of the most stunning jewelry and stone pieces we saw all weekend. Some vendors we recognized from our tight-knit festival community in California, but we also discovered many amazing artists, jewelers, glass blowers and designers from other parts of the country. Gem and Jam was a sort of Mecca for the creative, eco-conscious, music community.
There was a strong Colorado presence, and there were people from Chicago, the East Coast, and many from Arizona and the South West. As diverse as the crowd was, they all shared a refreshingly positive and open attitude towards one another. A part of the festival that especially untied attendees was the presence of the legendary psychedelic artist Alex Grey. He painted live on stage throughout the weekend, and spectators got the chance to see his work develop and come to life over four days. He also presented a slide show of his "Entheon" construction project and held an artistic workshop on during the day on Sunday. Alex Grey also spoke to the crowd on Saturday night and reminded the crowd that they were gathering for a healing, progressive purpose and not just to party. The audience listened intently to every word and embraced him with warm applause.
The musical lineup at Gem and Jam had a little bit of something for everyone. Each night of the festival had a notably different vibe, which kept the energy up throughout the weekend. Paul Basic, Purity Ring, and The Motet headlined the main stage on Friday night and started the festival out with a deep, grooving vibe. On the inside stage, So Cal favorite Trevor Moontribe, Amani and Digital Connection brought the pace up a little bit but still kept it relatively mellow.
On the second night the audience returned with a whole new enthusiasm after linking up with friends and experiencing the impressiveness of the gem show during the day. The energy kicked up on Saturday with Russ Liquid, Thriftworks, and Bluetech, and Mimosa ended out the night with some funky glitch, trap and dub. LED hoopers and flow artists provided some impressive entertainment both in the crowd and on stage, and it was inspiring to see the amount of talent coming from individuals outside of the Cali scene. Sunday night rounded out the weekend with some laid-back tribal sounds and pulsating beats from Love & Light, Random Rab, and Boombox. People were dancing until the very last track and even on their way out to the parking lot.
Everyone who attended Gem and Jam seemed genuinely happy to be there and to be experiencing the show with one another. There was an attitude of gratitude in the air, which is something that is often forgotten here in the fast-paced party scene on the West Coast. The festival was sparkling from the precious stones, the exquisitely intricate works of art, and the smiles of people enjoying each other’s company. Gem and Jam succeed in transforming a dried-out desert city into a glowing vortex of love- and we can’t wait to come back next year!