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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Gem and Jam festival incorporates music into Tucson Mineral Show

    Grace Pierson
    Grace Pierson/ The Daily Wildcat Laura Rivero and Andrea Lovestrees of Firefly Gatherings help set up the Gem and Jam Festival, which is taking place this weekend at the Slaughterhouse yard. The courtyard is outfitted with an outdoor stage and tents for live painting and galleries that mimic multi-faceted gems and minerals.

    The Gem and Jam Festival hits Tucson this weekend for three days of artists, minerals and live music.

    Gem and Jam has taken a unique path to become what it is today. The festival started in 2003 when a friend of Toby White, the founder and executive director of Gem and Jam, asked White to put on an after-party for the Gem and Mineral Show. After several successful years, the recession hit, and the festival wasn’t held in 2011 or 2012.

    “It was kind of sad to see it die out a little with the recession, and then it kind of got a spark and it was time to do it again,” White said.

    Along with gems and minerals, there will be 35 market vendors, 45 musical acts on two different stages and 38 different artists who will be painting live around the venue. The UA club Compost Cats has been recruited to keep the festival clean and green.

    The festival has seen as many as 1,800 people walk through its doors in a single night, but this year it is on track to eclipse that record. White and his team predict 2,500 festivalgoers on each upcoming night.

    “We’re kind of seeing things really skyrocket,” White said. “Sales are doing so much better than they’ve ever done before.”
    White said he noticed a marked absence of university students at prior festivals and sought to rectify that this year.

    This year, anyone who has walked down University Boulevard has probably seen the festival advertised at one point or another.
    “We … see a lot more younger people, college students, buying [tickets],” White said. “We really hit the campus heart this year, trying to get it out there.”

    One of the many musicians playing this year’s festival is local DJ Thriftworks, whose full name is Jake Atlas. Thriftworks produces a psychedelic-inspired hip hop with heavy electronic influences.
    “This is full time, this is it for me. I didn’t even quite expect to be doing this actually,” Atlas said. “It was really around 2008, the beats and the sounds coming out were just like, ‘Damn, this is really cool.’”

    Having produced and performed for years, he said he looks forward to performing at a festival in his hometown.

    “I am really close to the guys putting it on,” he said. “I am excited to play music and I’m sure it will be a good musical experience.”

    Another artist who will take the stage this weekend is Bluetech, otherwise known as Evan Bartholomew. He describes his music as “space hop.”

    “There is definitely a strong psychedelic element there,” he said, “but I like space hop.”

    He has toured internationally for over a decade, hitting faraway places such as Israel, Australia, Eastern and Western Europe and has played for diverse audiences — including the Prime Minister of Croatia.

    Despite touring anywhere between four to six months out of the year, he’s looking forward to his latest gig in Tucson.
    “I’ve never played at Gem and Jam,” he said. “I’m excited.”

    Though the two words “gem” and “jam” have come to define the festival, White is seeking to create an experience that appeals to as wide an audience as possible.

    “I sort of just wanted to bring in more than just the music and more than just the gems,” White said. “I wanted to make it as diverse as possible.”

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