Author - Jordan Miller

A Rockin’ Time at Gem & Jam Music Festival

Big Gigantic at Gem & Jam 2020

After one-year hiatus, Gem & Jam Music Festival returned to the Pima County Fairgrounds this past January 31 – February 2, 2020, for its 13th year. The festival boasted over 50 musical acts across four stages and three days. In addition to the jams, Gem & Jam participants had the option to engage in a variety of activities including health and wellness classes, drum circles, live painting demonstrations, and interactive art installs.

The festival coincides with the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral show, which provides attendees another venue of entertainment. Shuttles run from Gem & Jam to Tucson to encourage festival-goers to check out the world renowned mineral show happening just a short drive from the festival. With multiple locations and every type of mineral under the sun, it was easy to get caught up perusing the overloaded gem displays for a few hours.

Staying true to a rich Arizona tradition, minerals were a major focal point of the festival. From the stage names and stage design to the art and vendors, everything was all gem all the time. The Emerald Stage had huge rough cut quartz points adorning the stage, while the the indoor Onyx Stage had an iridescent faux crystal point backdrop that created a cave-like environment.

Alongside all those gems were a ton of jams! With four alternating stages, the lineup left the Santa Rita foothills ringing all weekend. Measured by sheer crowd energy, earlier acts that proved to be a hit included Dirtwire, Manic Focus, and The Floozies. As the sun dropped below the rolling hills and the desert temperatures dropped, the evening jams grew heavy and participants who braved the chilly evenings were rewarded by impressive closing acts by Tipper, Big Gigantic, Mersiv, and Buku. Mersiv brought massive sound and energy to the Onxy Stage while Tipper delivered glitch-hop beats to the tightly packed crowd at the Emerald Stage.

While the musical acts are the festival’s main focus, there were plenty of live painters, sculptors, and artists with a background in everything from clay, glass, and woodworking showcasing their art at Gem & Jam. Brad Rhadwood, most famous for his trippy animal designs painted on wood, completing a live painting over the course of the weekend that was then auctioned off. Rhadwood also had a larger piece displayed near the Emerald Stage accompanied by a projector which helped entice attendees to stop and gaze at his creation.

We got our rocks off checking out art, minerals, and grooving to great tunes at Gem & Jam and are excited for the return in 2021! For the full photo gallery, check our album on Facebook.

Eureka! We Struck Festival Gold at Arizona’s Goldrush 2019

Dr. Fresch at Goldrush 2019

Yee-haw Cowpokes, Goldrush is back in town! Relentless Beats‘ 3rd annual Goldrush returned to Rawhide Western Town and Event Center for two days this past September 27-28, 2019. The event boasted four stages, 40+ musical acts and several individual experiences ranging from General Admission to Platinum VIP, which included private meet and greets, complimentary drinks, steakhouse dinner, raised viewing deck, front-row viewing, air-conditioned bathrooms, gift bag, and chances to hang with your favorite artists in the Platinum Lounge.

Located just outside Phoenix, the venue provided the perfect backdrop for this western-themed festival. The quaint American frontier replica town combined with the mechanical bull amplified the feeling of the Wild West and invited participants to join the theme. The jail housed partner GreenPharms, a medical dispensary, where attendees had the chance to pick up some killer swag, get a picture taken while locked in the jail cell, or sign up to win an Arizona medical card for a year. The shooting gallery was free to play and would catch a few festival goers who were changing stages or looking for a way to kill time before the next act. Keeping true to the theme, attendees could be seen rocking everything from cowboy boots and chaps to light-up fuzzy coats and nothing but glitter.

Although Goldrush is a relatively new festival, the lineup was nothing short of impressive. Some noteworthy acts from the weekend included a sax heavy set from Zhu, vibrant visuals from Oliver Heldens, straight up filth and grime from Shlump and a bass blow-out from retired NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, performing as DJ Diesel. The 7’1’ DJ Diesel joined the crowd toward the end of his set and moshed alongside festival goers and even lifted a rail-riding 5ft girl into the air like she was a paper doll. DJ Diesel also made a point to meet, shake hands, exchange hugs, and grab a few quick selfies with festival goers after he climbed out of the mosh pit and walked backstage. His set seemed to be a crowd favorite and even Dr. Fresch was spotted on stage during Shaq’s set dancing around and hyping up the crowd while wearing a sombrero.

The visuals were intense with many amazing light and video productions, but what was really breathtaking were the views from the venue of the natural landscape and mountain sunsets. It was blissful to be vibing along to great music while watching the sun disappear behind the Phoenix mountains.

Don’t forget to shine those boots and we will catch you cowpokes at next year’s hoedown!

For photo coverage from Goldrush 2019, check out our Facebook photo album.

“Pass a Good Time” at BUKU

BUKU 2019 Art Backdrop

A short drive from the bustle of Bourbon Street, past the smell of Café Du Monde beignets and over south Canal Street, you can find a festival for music, art and traditional Louisiana cuisine known as BUKU Music + Art Project. The festival brings in major musical talents from various genres like hip-hop, indie, and electronic, but the most impressive aspect of BUKU is the amount and variety of art. BUKU encompasses the art-rich history of the Big Easy by showcasing multiple artists and art forms like roving musical troupes, acrobats, and dancers, while also creating fun backdrops like graffitied walls, revolving projection mapped spectacles, and Mardi Gras floats. Whether walking to another set or exploring the venue, you are always surrounded by art.

BUKU 2019 Shipping Crate Art
The BUKU shipping crate art installation was a popular backdrop

A crowd favorite was New Thousand with Adrian Jusdanis, who would wow passersby with an animated performance on his electric violin accompanied by Nick Haven, performing on five gallon buckets, used as drums. You couldn’t help but be drawn into the crowd that encircled Adrian and watch with eager eyes as he fervently plucked notes with his teeth while dancing around. The roving musical troupes added an essence of surprise to the BUKU experience by turning up unannounced with a group of dancing festival goers in tow as they moved to various stages as if the troupe was the Festival Pied Pipers.

Aside from the pop-up musical acts, BUKU hosted some major musical talent that undoubtedly helped them expand the venue and boast record numbers for their eighth year. Established artists like Lana Del Ray, RL Grime, A$AP Rocky, and Griz headlined the festival; all the musical acts big and small delivered. The Slander B2B NGHTMRE performance Friday night really set the bar for the weekend as the trio played a bass heavy set that got the whole crowd head-banging and sporting dirty bass faces. Yaeji performed her signature sound, hip hop house with mellow Korean and English lyrics, to a packed Float Den stage Saturday evening. Oliver Tree also graced the Float Den and despite starting 45 minutes later than scheduled, was greeted by cheering fans as he rode in on his Razor scooter while emulating the 80’s by sporting a brightly colored puffy track suit.

BUKU 2019 Oliver Tree
Oliver Tree Performing at BUKU 2019

Oliver Tree wasn’t the only BUKU attendee dressed to impress. The entire festival was flooded with outlandish and expressive fashions that one could only find in New Orleans. Everything from rhinestone cowboy hats to Carnival style bras and feather headdresses were seen cutting through the crowd or standing in line for water. You could also visit one of the many “style booths” and get glittered, colorful hair extensions, or body painted.

BUKU also incorporated the Big Easy’s foodie scene into the festival by allowing attendees the option to try traditional Louisiana food like shrimp po’boys, boudin Cajun sausage, and spicy gumbo. Those with VIP wristbands were invited to the Crawfish Boil Saturday afternoon where they could enjoy fresh crawfish paired with all the fixins like corn on the cob, potatoes, and Cajun spiced onions. Having access to these traditional Louisiana foods really brought the whole BUKU experience together.

The eclectic blend of music, art, fashion and food should put BUKU on your list as a must see festival. The culture of New Orleans flows through the venue and brings an exciting edge to the music and arts festival. As the locals would say, “Pass a good time” and come check out BUKU!

For full Dancebreak photo coverage, checkout our Day 1 and Day 2 albums on Facebook.

Roots Reggae Festival Expands to Arizona

Dispatch Performing at AZ Roots Festival (2)

Its not uncommon for inaugural festivals to run into obstacles in their first year, but the highly-experienced California Roots organization based out of Monterey, which will be celebrating 10 years of success this May, was able to spread their brand successfully to Arizona February 9-10, 2019. Arizona Roots featured some of the top reggae talents with headliners like Stick Figure, Dispatch, Trevor Hall and Rebelution, among other artists. Some reggae enthusiasts traveled from nearby neighboring states while others traveled from as far as the Dakotas. “I’m stoked the Cali Roots crew decided to start another festival and pick a different month because traveling during Memorial Day weekend is expensive,” said festival attendee, Mark Smart, from South Dakota. The festival boasted 5 individual experience levels to make your weekend as memorable as possible. They ranged from General Admission to Platinum VIP, which gave festival goers access to raised viewing platforms, private restrooms, catered meals with the bands, and complimentary drinks.

It is no surprise the headliners were the highlight of the event; you could almost feel the whole Rawhide Western Town teeming with excitement as crowds began to descend toward the main stage to see Trevor Hall. The brisk desert air didn’t deter the crowd but instead initiated warm conversations between strangers as people flocked to the outdoor heaters located around the stage to stay warm while enjoying the show. As the sun began to sink lower in the sky, a chorus of voices rose up singing along to Trevor Hall’s Lime Tree and everywhere you looked you saw relaxed smiles, bright eyes and positive vibes. J Boog took the stage after Trevor Hall and played a phenomenal set as a striking Arizona sunset lit up the sky behind the main stage. The clouded sky soon gave way to big, bright stars as festival goers danced and sung to music of Atmosphere and Rebelution. The fun didn’t stop there as all attendees were given access to the two night on-site after party which kept the crowd groovin’ to the musical stylings of various artist such as Dem Atlas, The Lioness, and Mellow Psychedelic Culture into the wee hours of the night.

Movement of Jah People Art Car at AZ Roots Festival
Movement of Jah People Art Car at AZ Roots Festival

Aside from the musical headliners, Arizona Roots hosted a number of artists and vendors. The vendor booths sold everything from CBD edibles to licensed Grateful Dead merchandise, while various artists live-painted murals. 8-time Burning Man art car, Movement of Jah People, greeted festival goers as they entered the venue. For those of you who have never seen Movement of Jah People, it has two levels, a built in bathroom, and a large metal roaring lion head covering the front of the vehicle. The tongue features a bench that seats two! MoJP’s second story allowed attendees unparalleled views of the stages and the beautiful Phoenix landscape. The lion’s head is covered in small Burning Man symbols that were plasma cut into the sheet metal, those drops were then given out to participants during the art car’s first few years on the playa. “You could own a piece of the art car,” remarks owner and Arizona local, Ian Liljeblad. Aside from cruising around Burning Man for the past 8 years, MoJP has been in a number of parades and hopes to frequent other regional burns and festivals.

Big Willy Art Car at AZ Roots Festival
Big Willy Art Car at AZ Roots Festival

Liljeblad also brought his recent creation and new art car: Big Willy. Big Willy is a replica of wartime Willy’s MB that is roughly two times the scale and is a fully functional trail-ready Jeep. If that wasn’t enough, Big Willy has been outfitted with pulsing LEDs that add a touch of spunk to this spot-on military replica. Between the blocks on the pedals that allow drivers to reach and the comically oversized steering wheel, climbing up into Big Willy’s driver seat will make you feel like a kid again. Thank you Ian for sharing your art with Arizona Roots!

If you find yourself looking for a reggae festival nestled in the desert mountains, Arizona Roots should be number 1 on your list, but don’t take my word for it, come check it out for yourself!