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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Gem and jammin’ out

    Alex Guyton

    DJ Treavor Moontribe drops beats at last year’s Gem and Jam Festival at The Slaughterhouse. This year’s iteration of the festival runs from Friday to Sunday.

    Now in its ninth year, the native Gem and Jam Festival returns to Tucson Friday through Sunday. The festival proves a unique opportunity for Tucsonans, as it leads into the Gem and Mineral Show’s culture with live music, workshops and special events. The three-day festival will feature a wide selection of performers ranging from aerial acrobatics to live painting shows.

    Finding its start in 2003, the Gem and Jam Festival came from humble beginnings. Initially, the event served as an after-party gathering for Gem and Mineral Show attendees, but as the years progressed, the festival grew, only taking a brief hiatus in 2011 and 2012 due to the recession.

    “We started off as a pretty small festival just outside of town our first year, and slowly, we made our way into town,” said Toby White, founder and executive director of Gem and Jam. 

    “We’ve gone from a few artists to over 50 artists and vendors since the festival’s inception.” White said. “The event has definitely taken off.”

    Expecting its largest crowd of festivalgoers to date, Gem and Jam will be hosting 65 vendors onsite and over 45 live bands, DJs and producers.

    “We have a wide variety of different artists that are playing this year,” White said. “There are some local acts and some international acts. We have everything from down-tempo to mid-tempo beats to live bands. We also have a gallery displaying a variety of different artists and about 50 different performing artists.”

    In an effort to attract a younger crowd and establish the festival’s reputation, Gem and Jam worked to re-amp its marketing strategy from years past. With over 2,000 tickets sold this year and another 1,000 projected to sell by the end of the festival, the lineup has taken on a new form.

    “I think in the past, we didn’t market correctly,” White said. “We really wanted to get it out there and let everyone at the university know that what’s going on. With the show we’re providing, the college community should be our biggest crowd.”

    Seeking a more cohesive atmosphere, White and company worked to reset the vibe to attract a larger demographic of festival attendees.

    “We wanted a more intimate vibe,” White said. “Last year was [a] little more all over the board. This year, we’ve worked to kind of tone it down. All the acts flow together. We’re looking forward to having something everybody can jive with.”
    Attracting new and old acts alike, the festival boasts an expansive array of local and international talent. Among the many musicians performing at this year’s festival are Portland-based producers Emancipator.

    “The festival scene is pretty magical,” said Doug Appling, Emancipator’s founder. “I don’t think there’s anything quite like it. I’m really excited to be a part of this event and get back into the swing of things. This is going to be the first festival of the year for me, and I want to kick it off proper.”

    After dropping his first album in 2002, Appling toured internationally in the years following his first release, though Appling says he’s excited to bring his sound to Tucson.

    “I’ve heard a lot of good things about [Gem and Jam],” Appling said. “I’m excited. Hopefully, you will be inspired to feel something when you hear my music. We try to just create a positive, uplifting vibe; the music is sweet and not at all heavy. Hopefully [the audience] will find it interesting.”

    For those new to the Gem and Jam scene, expect a show unlike any you’ve experienced before, White said.

    “[You’re] going to experience eye candy everywhere [you] go,” White said. “There are lots of really good people to meet, art to see and music to experience.”

    Festivities are set to commence Friday at 10 a.m. for the Gem and Mineral Show and 4 p.m. for Gem and Jam and will run throughout the weekend. The event main stage is set up at Slaughterhouse on Grant Road, though additional events ranging from yoga to silent discos will be taking place at Solar Culture Gallery and Galactic Center until 5 a.m. every day.

    “There are all sorts of events that focus on really moving your body and others that really focus on working your brain,” White said. “It’s got almost a circus feel to it, but with very upscale gems and minerals. We’re hoping to attract a very diverse crowd with all the things we’ll be offering. It’s going to be good this year.”’


    Follow Elise McClain on Twitter.

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