Four Musical Jewels of Gem & Jam Festival 2024

Gem & Jam Festival is a must-stop destination for those attending the world-renowned Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase in Tucson, Arizona. Nestled into the mountainous haven of the Pima County Fairgrounds, Gem & Jam attracts 4,500 fans to experience a variety of music and artwork from all over the world. Gem & Jam’s 2024 music lineup featured Daily Bread, The Disco Biscuits, Mr. Carmack, Lettuce, Of The Trees, Michal Menert, Maddy O’Neal, Truth, LP Giobbi, and others. The event boasts dozens of workshops and unique vendors supplying everything from eclectic fur coats and handcrafted gemstone jewelry to authentic Mexican cuisine and the best damn tater tots I’ve ever had.

After a three-year hiatus from music journalism, I was invited to join the Vision Media Team as their production assistant, helping to create recap videos and assisting the aerial drone pilot in flights over the festival grounds. While this was a new notch on my music industry belt, I knew there were two things I could expect: I was going to have the time of my life and I was going to have to break my writing interlude to tell someone about it. Here were my favorite acts of the weekend.

Chess Club

Chess Club kicked off the weekend just as the sun peaked from behind the rainclouds. I lounged at the Quartz stage with an old college friend (Go Lumberjacks!) and played our favorite game: what genre would you call this? I landed on soul-jazz fusion love songs. My friend landed on “music I want to listen to on my record player while I smoke weed on a Sunday.” Either way… you just have to hear them. The crowd stood swaying and giggling to the cheeky lyrics of “It’s Not Me, It’s You” and singing along to the band’s newest hit with American rap star and actor, GaTa (featured as Lil’ Dicky’s best pal in Hulu hit ‘Dave’), “I Wish Your Dog Didn’t Look at Me (While We Make Love).”

Embarking on their sophomore year as a band, accomplished jazz musicians Adam Chase and Danny Darress (Champagne and Paris, respectively) describe their songs as “backhanded bangers” and “anti-love songs.” They say that their musical style varies based on the event and that their plan was to arrange a specially-curated set for Gem & Jam, which may sound totally different from what they’d play at a pop show or a jazz concert. Typically recording with a full band, noting esteemed jazz artists Felix Pastorius on bass and Isaiah Sharkey on guitar, seeing the duo perform a more unplugged live set felt like a real treat. Chess Club’s latest offering, “They Wanted a Demo,” is out now on all streaming platforms.

The Main Squeeze

If you are looking for an indicator of a band that throws a party… travel to a music festival in southern Arizona, wait until the temperature drops to 35º, and see which outdoor stage fills up the fastest with dancing fans. The Main Squeeze, a multicultural American funk band out of Los Angeles, proved that piping hot vocals by Corey Frye and a masterful guitar performance by Maximillion Newman are scalding enough to warm even the coldest of atmospheres. It was the perfect Friday night closer on the Quartz stage.

Ironically, I became a fan of The Main Squeeze in September 2022 when professional progressive rock guitarist and good friend Silas Gage Jarrett of Magnasana invited me to the Denver Music Showcase for my birthday. The band performed on, you guessed it, an unseasonably freezing summer day. Yet again, it was the one performance I took my coat off for. Silas went as far as to hire Maximillion for guitar lessons shortly after, in which he said “no other musician thinks like he does; he’s an innovator.” Naturally, I called him to ask which songs to recommend. Here is where we landed: ‘Only Time,’ ‘Love Yourself Somebody,’ and ‘Sun Goes Down.’

Super Future

Super Future packed out the indoor Onyx stage just as the sun set on Sunday evening. Nick Rowland loves to show up and “shake his ass to some female rap,” a style he’s been energetically conducting since his inaugural 2020 ‘Hypernatural’ tour, alongside rising star, Wreckno. (For a blast from the past, check out an interview with Super Future and Wreckno from their Hypernatural tour). Super Future’s current tour with mystery-producer Super Ave promises to deliver the duo’s same bassy hip-hop flavor.

Recently, his incorporation of ethereal, mesmerizing, melodic down-tempo has added a Fender Stratocaster-sounding impression in his trap-rap style of music that leaves his ‘Super Human’ fanbase smiling leaving his sets. Nick’s sole focus is creating authentic sounds saying “if you chase down creating a brand out of something, you go down the wrong path. I’m letting the authenticity come out and whatever happens to me next is my project.”

So if you’ve seen Super Future before… no you haven’t.

Andy Frasco & The U.N.

In a time where polished and pre-approved aesthetic performances are taking over the stage (and social media), Andy Frasco and his band The U.N. come barreling onto the stage like a tornado, but with twice the energy, and to heal rather than destroy. One of the closing acts on the main stage, Frasco and his blues/soul rock band delivered a set list ranging from songs about love, friendship, and getting high to a spirited performance of Hava Nagila. The crowd swirled around Frasco like a whirlpool. Their cover of ‘Break Stuff’ by Limp Bizkit, made the crowd go nuts. The coats came off.

After an impressive 15 years touring the world and nine studio albums, the band now performs close to 250 shows per year, always happy to host the high energy party that the whole audience is invited to. Finally, a band where each member has their own spotlight, creating a stage where musicality is honored and then shared as Andy prompts the entire band to switch instruments half-way through a song. There’s something fresh yet nostalgic about watching a front man stage dive into the audience to conduct a ‘wall of death’ and then make out with his bass guitarist, Floyd Kellogg. Andy Frasco & The U.N. are true rockstars, and a must-see performance.

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Festival Extras

  • 2024 marked the first time Gem & Jam hosted a campground pre-party, occurring on Thursday, February 1, 2024, hosted by Puerto Disco Society collective.
  • For the third time, Gem & Jam partnered with Green Disco. Additionally, the sale of Eco-Bands (a 100% hemp optional ticket add-on) allowed the festival to plant over 150 trees through a new partnership with Million Trees Project and Tucson Clean & Beautiful.

Mark your calendars. Next year’s Gem & Jam is officially confirmed for January 31 – February 2, 2025. You do not want to miss it.


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