Gem and Jam Festival 2022 Review: A Sanctuary For Experimental Art

| February 27, 2022

The 14th annual Gem & Jam Festival was a three-day compilation of endless giggles, desert dwelling in complete darkness, rekindling an appreciation for expression, and perpetually dancing to EDM.

All five stages included experimental bass, jam, rock, funk, house, and everything in between. Music performers combined DJing with live instrumentation featuring xylophones, saxophones, banjos, guitars, trumpets, and more. Every stage overflowed with flow artists of all mediums as LED gloves, hoops, fire fans, poi, dragon staff, and shufflers illuminated the dance floor. 



Emerald Stage: The Heartbeat of Gem and Jam

Over three days, Opiuo, Shpongle, Jimkata, Hot Buttered Rum, Random Rab, Quantic, Rising Appalachia, and Brother's Comatose headlined the main stage.

Friday night showcased Lab Group's commemoration of Charlesthefirst with some of his tracks like "Mercy Falls" and his remix of Chynna's "The Conversation". Then, they unleashed the collaborative fusion of their debut album, Banshee. Live songs like "Old Ways" and "Nightshift" produced by Supertask, Charlesthefirst, Potions, and other  artists were spotlighted favorites for audience members. It was a softening mix of Charlesthefirst's ambient vibe mixed with Lab Group’s rhythmic bass that allowed the crowd to discover the range of Charlesthefirst's discography. Wreckno even joined on stage to sing and dance during a few tracks. A mural of Charlesthefirst was enhanced with projector visuals depicting white feathers and other patterns. 

Liquid Stranger lit up the crowd like a steady flame in this windy desert. The Arizona-native made good on his promise to be the hardest performer at Gem & Jam 2022. In Liquid Stranger fashion, he debuted his unreleased track “Take a Drip.” In this midst of his unreleased track, he asked the crowd to tie their shoes, squirm and wave to the right to perfect the “spaghetti” before him. Without surprise, Wreckno shared the stage with Liquid Stranger for a track.

On Sunday night, STS9 released the capacity to make lullabies jealous. Light installations of all colors of the rainbow mingled with light fog and ravers entered a decompressing dream state from partying for eighteen or more hours that weekend. Sunsquabi followed STS9’s lead and continued emitting melodies. The legendary Gem and Jam Preying Mantis made an appearance during this last performance at this stage–circulating through the crowd like a firefly through the intangible dark. Ravers gawked with surprise and took pictures with it as they expected to see the Preying Mantis sooner in the weekend.



Opal Stage of Cosmic Consciousness

Day 1 introduced MZG, Dusted, Choppy Oppy, Eons, Sunrays, and other bass-focused artists. Veloces, TXNY, Mastuh, Tree Gaud, and Emerald Bass Collective kicked off the weekend-long silent disco. 

Day 2 featured Dirty Nabz, Bingo Bango, Kody Black, Seppi, Slick Floyd, and more. PROPER manipulated the Hennessey Sound Speaker system sending optimum deep, bone-vibrating bass to distinguish the music styles apart from any other stage. For the late night silent disco takeover, Basikly Bradley, Katrina Fire, OG Coconut, Speckz delivered heat to ravers able to withstand the freezing weather.

Day 3 included artists such as Residuo, Takimba, Auxlee, and Jxcristo. Ethno Global astonished the audience with his dreamy, light sound and his demonstrated control using a xylophone and drum pad. Ill Divo x Jaybird and Cowboy Spice released a sense of bliss during their performances, causing wavy arms and light shuffling to say goodbye to the last sunset of Gem & Jam 2022. The silent disco concluded the weekend with Atom, Beat Juice, Lou Lou, Seeweed, Vital Wild, and the return of Emerald Bass Collective. 



Quartz Stage: A Playground for All 

Once the festival grounds opened, attendees split their time between the many healing workshops and performance at the Quartz Stage. Friday featured sets by Geo Star, M-O, The Bennu, Project Aspect, Flying Skulls, Soohan, Band of Comerados, and Plantrae.

Day 2 consisted of performances by Space Whales, Smokestack Lightning, Moontricks, Cloudchord, Yak Attack, and Tauk. Gonzofuse’s energetic performance in the comforting white sunlight attracted ravers of all ages. Immediately after, Capyac delivered feel-good sounds without heavy bass. Day 3 concluded with sets by LSTER, Auragami, Jahmontee, Simon & Seer, Vincent Antone, AMP Live, The Sponges, Equanimous, and Safi's Lab.  



The Eurythmic Onyx Stage 

Night one had attendees eagerly waiting outside the stage for performances by Angelic Root, Daily Bread, Tripp St. and more. With Lotus’ meditative performance, couples scattered across the dance floor, removed their fur coats, and waltzed and kissed to sultry guitar. Lotus relinquished relaxation, inviting ravers to wander in a safe and imaginative headspace. Wreckno was the galvanizing final performance on the Onyx Stage. Despite it being 3 am, nothing was going to stop Wreckno from spitting sassy lyrics and seductive bass during “Medusa”. 

Veil, Maddy O'Neil, JACKLNDN pushed night two into full throttle. Dirtwire saturated the crowd with their mercurial live instrumentation and dynamic set, with each track unlike the previous. Soon, the stage easily dissipated from their rave family cuddle puddles for Claude VonStroke's midnight set. Drenched in the luminescence of oceanic blue lasers, his fast and hyper transitions triggered the audience to perform their own disco moves among friends. 

The music vibe changed on night three with NotLö, Saqi, Atyva, and Melvin Seals & JGB's use of live vocals and instrumentation.



Live Painters, Art Gallery And Crystal-Paved Campgrounds

Past the vendor marketplace and into the art gallery, live painters such as Caro Caro and Zachary Brown astonished attendees with their immersive abstract and surrealist paintings. Many live painters and woodcarvers were granted the opportunity to provide their wholesale art. 

The Gem & Jam campgrounds are a marketplace for vendors of fine art and custom festival merch consisting of posters/prints, crystals, jewelry, patches, pins, and more. If you forgot to visit an ATM, you quickly discovered that Gem & Jam is a place of trade. One food vendor in particular, Grilled Cheese Incident, attached a note to their menu that read “Will trade grilled cheese for rocks when boss is in”.

Leopard print school buses, a mini van with Jimi Hendrix paintings, free tarot card readings and tea ceremonies barely scratch the surface of the novelty uncovered at ravers' campsites. It reminded attendees to step up their campsite game to offer fellow campers more entertainment on their way to the festival grounds.



Gem & Jam was a place where security doesn’t hound the front of the stage. Performers of all mediums can express themselves on whatever they can modify as a platform or podium. It's a place where festival fashion breaks norms at a mind-blowing rate, with many attendees choosing costumes as their fashion go-to. Ravers made Gem & Jam their home for the long weekend and left with an appreciation for art and its relationship to the human experience. Until next year, Gem & Jam fanatics will reminisce this year's unforgettable encounter with artistic expression and its relationship to the human experience.


Photos courtesy of Press Pause Films, John Verwey, and Silky Shots.



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about the writer

Mary Mason

Mary Mason

Read More...Mary is an artist based in Phoenix, AZ. Her favorite mediums to practice are confessional poetry and hula hooping.

When she’s not hula hooping at a local bass and riddim show, she’s at the beach or San Diego Art Museum. Mary’s adoration for EDM (culture & community) inspires her to perform. One of her many ways of celebrating art is attending festivals with her friends.

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