Charge your crystals, grab your winter wook-wear and dust off your dancing shoes, it’s time to groove to rambling guitar riffs and wonky wubs at Gem & Jam! There’s an easygoing atmosphere to this festival in the desert and the layout makes it easy to frolick between stages absorbing all the art, bouncing between live bands and down ‘n’ dirty electronic music. Here are 10 priority sets to make sure you catch!
MZG – Opal Stage 6-7 pm
Some DJ duos operate so smoothly together it feels like they’re reading each other’s minds. The twin brothers known as MZG dial this synergy to a subconscious wavelength through their rousing, hip-hop-infused bass house that smacks listeners with gyrating hooks and a devilish dose of wompy density. After getting your camp set up in the afternoon and getting a little familiar with the festival grounds, this hour of bustling beats during the sunset will loosen you up and have you getting down to really kick off the weekend.
Lab Group – Emerald Stage 8:45-10 pm
The tragic loss of CharlestheFirst in December has devastated the bass/EDM community. In his stead, honoring his memory and legacy of experimental, dreamy downtempo bass will be Lab Group, the collaborative new trio Charles was a part of alongside Supertask and Potions. Expect low-end bass frequencies and deep-wobble melodies that seem to slow down time, rippling through the crowd at the main stage with a surprising depth of emotion.
Liquid Stranger – Emerald Stage 10:45 pm – 12 am
The wookery shall reach peak levels as Swedish oddball Liquid Stranger launches spunions into the stratosphere with propulsive, swerving space bass full of warp drive noises, interdimensional distortions and face-melting drops. The Wakaan label-head famously interjects on the mic to everyone’s delight, hyping up audiences with his endearing accent and goofy enthusiasm while wicked wubs cause arms to wiggle like spaghetti, bodies rattling in the beat sauce of unruly bangers and dizzying dubstep.
Opiuo – Emerald Stage 9-1015 pm
The blend of soulful funk, springy electro-grooves and a touch of the sublime (from symphonic orchestration to soaring vocals on collab tracks) position New Zealand’s Opiuo as perhaps the most wide-appeal set of the fest. Instrumental rhythms grab the jam-band faithful and glitchy bass reverberations stir even the headiest wooks into bumpin’ motion, combining for a funkadelic-fresh dance party uniting all manner of attendees in harmonious vibes.
Dirtwire – Onyx Stage 9:45-11 pm
As the most unique sounding band on the lineup, Dirtwire may compel you to leave Opiuo early for their hair-raising style of swampy electro-twang blues. The list of instruments they incorporate into live performances range from the harmonica, electric violin and guitar-jo to specialty flutes, African drums and a cornucopia of worldly instruments, some of which you’ve likely never encountered. One song they’ll emanate a poignantly ethereal resonance, then become grounded in Dustbowl-blues acoustics the next – awe-inspiring and danceable in equal measure.
Shpongle (Simon Posford Live Set) 10:45 pm – 12 am
If you like weird, trippy and extravagant sonic journeys, then strap in for the wildest set of the fest as Simon Posford curates a legendary ride of phantasmagoric exploration, weaving in and out of transcendent consciousness, bizarre alien noises and a circus of instrumental sensory overload. Shpongle prominently defines the psybient genre, mixing world music, ambient tracks, surreal vocals, a multitude of instruments, and a more spiritual, slower style of psychedelic trance assembled with an endless array of synth experimentation. Add to that otherworldly visuals and astounding costumes on stage performers for the mind-blowing experience of getting “Shpongled”.
Claude VonStroke – Onyx Stage 12-2 am
To bring your spirit back to Earth following the extra-dimensional extravaganza of Shpongle, Dirtybird boss Claude VonStroke’s vivacious tech-house selections will have you feeling your body in ecstatic dance, playfully shaking around in the indoor, warehouse-like setting of the Onyx stage. Claude only grows more reliably satisfying with each year, and amidst so much wook and hippie music, this raving respite will be a thrilling change of pace, especially liberating and free-flowing in this context.
NotLö – Onyx Stage 5:45-7 pm
The final night focuses more on bands, so get your fix of rumbling bass that vibrates your insides like an earthquake at NotLö. The low end bass here booms loud and deep enough to discombobulate your senses and scramble your brainwaves, blasting frequencies you’ll have to hear to believe. Wonky to the extreme, bass deep enough to simulate an alien abduction.
SunSquabi – Emerald Stage 8:20-9:35 pm
For funky jams imbued with electronic danceability and a solar flare of cosmic wonder, bask in the warm rays and sprawling grooves of Colorado-based trio SunSquabi. Getting lost in extended improvisations is one of the main pillars of jam bands, though with these guys, it feels like coasting through the galaxy in a brightly colored spaceship, marveling at nebulas while bobbing around in zero gravity.
STS9 – Emerald Stage 10:20 pm – 12 am
One of the icons of jam band culture, Sound Tribe Sector 9 reign as the kings of jamtronica. This five-piece ensemble rises above indulgent solos and homogenous soundscapes common to many of their peers, instead creating mystical mélanges that reveal unexpected styles as the different members unfurl in a variety of distinct yet intertwined directions. They could twinkle with disco vibes at one junction then lay on moody synths right after, transitioning from ‘70s splendor to ‘80s electro and then bust out all the instruments, vocals, and samples to harmonize in more modern melodies. Even if jam bands bore you, STS9 promises a rollicking climax to the weekend.