Kyle Hollingsworth Band performing at Gem and Jam Festival 2020. Photo by: Samantha Harvey
Kyle Hollingsworth Band performing at Gem and Jam Festival 2020. Photo by: Samantha Harvey

Tipper, Big Gigantic, The Floozies, Billy Strings, and Over 70 Live Performances Spark Excitement in Tucson, Arizona

Gem & Jam, it was almost like you never left. 

Festival and gem lovers gathered at the 13th annual Gem and Jam Festival January 31 to February 2, 2020, officially kicking off the 2020 festival season with a bang. After taking 2019 off, Gem & Jam is back and better than ever. 

If you aren’t familiar with the Gem and Jam Festival, the festival grounds located at the Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, Arizona, are relatively small making it very easy to navigate. What’s more, you can often see performers and live painters walking around the grounds throughout the weekend. 

Set conflicts are few and far between, and the weather is anywhere from 80 degrees during the day to 40 degrees at night. The Gem and Jam Festival is a breath of fresh air in the music festival scene, where many festival goers are accustomed to sacrificing one set for another in blistering heat, or worse – thunderstorms. 

The festival even offers high quality amenities like free showers, modestly priced drinks, and shuttles to the annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, an international hub for jewelers and rock hounds alike that spans over two weeks. 

Aside from a few layout changes, Gem & Jam was a lot like the previous years with a heavy focus on live painting, intricate art installations, giant crystals, and unique vendors. 

One of the major new additions to Gem & Jam was the All the Homies takeover at the Opal Stage. The stage featured local producers and performers, visual artists, and Hennesy sound design – arguably some of the best sounds rigs for bass music in the industry.

Mystic Grizzly performing live at the 2020 Gem and Jam Festival in Tucson, Arizona. Photo by: Samantha Harvey
Mystic Grizzly performing live at the 2020 Gem and Jam Festival in Tucson, Arizona. Photo by: Samantha Harvey

Some personal highlights from Friday evening included Mystic Grizzly (see exclusive interview here), Dirtwre, and Tipper. 

Dirtwire performing at the 2020 Gem and Jam Festival in Tucson, Arizona. Photo by: Samantha Harvey
Dirtwire performing at the 2020 Gem and Jam Festival in Tucson, Arizona. Photo by: Samantha Harvey

The Emerald main stage came alive in a whole new way when Dirtwire took the stage, enveloping the crowd with their distinctive style of blending americana, bluegrass, electronica, folk, and world music sounds. At one point, all three members of Dirtwire started playing jaw harps that had everyone grooving. 

Tipper’s set was accompanied by visuals from Jonathon Singer. The visual addition provided for a mind-melting visual experience complemented by Tipper’s unique method of scratching. 

Saturday’s shenanigans began with Balkan Bump at the Quartz stage, a personal favorite. Over the years, the Quartz stage has included funky art installations, cool places to lounge, and wood worked stage accents that give the area a very artistic feel. This has always been a great spot to relax while grabbing some food or soaking up the midday sun. 

The Floozies performing on the Emerald Stage on Saturday, February 1 in Tucson, Arizona. Photo by: Samantha Harvey
The Floozies performing on the Emerald Stage on Saturday, February 1 in Tucson, Arizona. Photo by: Samantha Harvey

The Floozies performed at the Emerald stage Saturday evening, incorporating some throwback tracks into their set. Their sound has evolved into something different than the “Sunroof Cadillac” and “Tell Your Mother” album days, and it’s nice they still incorporate their old tracks into their festival sets. Ratchet Noir had the Opal Stage bumping into the night on Saturday. If you have a chance to experience their interpretation of subterranean desert bump and grind, don’t hesitate. You won’t regret it. 

Sunday was the last day of festivities, but the energy still remained high. Kitchen Dwellers and Billy Strings gave the Emerald stage a much-needed dose of bluegrass. Billy Strings covered “China Road” by the Doobie Brothers and gave the crowd a dose of older music with favorites such as “Dust in a Baggie” and “Turmoil & Tinfoil.” 

Micheal Travis and Jason Hann of The String Cheese Incident performing with TH3 at the 2020 Gem and Jam Festival in Tucson, Arizona. Photo by: Samantha Harvey
Micheal Travis and Jason Hann of The String Cheese Incident performing with TH3 at the 2020 Gem and Jam Festival in Tucson, Arizona. Photo by: Samantha Harvey

One of the most anticipated sets, TH³, did not disappoint. Comprised of Michael Travis, Jason Hann, and Kyle Hollingsworth of The String Cheese Incident and Matt Hill of The Floozies, the group absolutely destroyed the Emerald stage with one-of-a-kind improvisation Gem & Jam is known for. It was the first time the group has graced the stage together, but it was hardly noticeable. There were distinct electronic wub sounds akin to EOTO (aka Michael Travis and Jason Hann’s side project) with electric guitar and keyboard jams that created something completely new and original. 

Twiddle closed down the festival at the Emerald stage with their feel-good vibes. It was a near perfect atmosphere for the commencement of three days worth of music, art, and of course, crystals.

We’re so glad you’re back, Gem & Jam. Here’s to many more years to come. 

Billy Strings Fan at Gem and Jam Festival 2020. Photo by: Samantha Harvey
Billy Strings Fan at Gem and Jam Festival 2020. Photo by: Samantha Harvey
Autonomix performing live on the Quartz Stage. Photo by: Samantha Harvey
Autonomix performing live on the Quartz Stage. Photo by: Samantha Harvey
April With Trike at Gem and Jam Festival. Photo by: Samantha Harvey
April With Trike at Gem and Jam Festival. Photo by: Samantha Harvey
Kyle Hollingsworth Band performing at Gem and Jam Festival 2020. Photo by: Samantha Harvey
Kyle Hollingsworth Band performing at Gem and Jam Festival 2020. Photo by: Samantha Harvey
Praying Mantis Watching Billy Strings. Photo by: Samantha Harvey
Praying Mantis Watching Billy Strings. Photo by: Samantha Harvey

Stream music from featured Gem and Jam Festival 2020 artists via our YouTube playlist below.