Gem & Jam Festival

Photo Credit – Gem and Jam Festival

The 11th annual Gem & Jam Festival, located in the sunny and beautiful Tucson, Arizona, is right around the corner and the lineup is stacked with talented music masterminds!
The weekend kicks off with an especially rare treat, four of the six members from the String Cheese Incident will be performing as the Trancident. The festival schedule amps up as Mike Gordon from the infamous jam-band, Phish, will be performing as well as other jam legends such as Dead & Co’s Jeff Chimenti and Steve Kimock & Friends. The compilation of artists is exceptionally diverse and the lines defining producers and live-bands are blurred as we see performances by Gramatik, Lotus, the Floozies, Infamous Stringdusters, the Funk Hunter, the Motet, Russ Liquid Test and more! I recommend paying close attention to the schedule as it is perfectly constructed to foster unique and one-of-a-kind collaborations between artists.
Nestled in the serene Pima County fairgrounds, the three day camping festival happening February 3rd -5th will feature unparalleled art, music and performances, accompanied by gem & mineral displays and vendors. Gem & Jam’s full lineup includes: Gramatik; The Floozies; Lotus; The Trancident, featuring Kyle Hollingsworth, Michael Travis, Michael Kang and Jason Hann of the String Cheese Incident; EOTO & Friends; G Jones; The Infamous Stringdusters; Poolside; Com Truise; Steve Kimock & Friends, featuring Jeff Chimenti, Bobby Vega and Wally Ingram; Opiuo; The Motet; 8 Minutes to Burn; Adem Joel; Another Monkey; The Bennu; Cadillac Mountain; Cool Nasty; Desert Hearts Showcase, featuring Mikey Lion,Lee Reynolds and Marbs; Dimond Saints; Electric Feel; Endoplasmic; Evanoff; Flying Skulls; The Funk Hunters; Gipsy Moon; Jaw Gems; Keli & the Big Dream; Kitchen Dwellers; kLL sMTH; Kyle Hollingsworth Band; Kyma; Late Night Radio; Maddy O’Neal; Majitope; M-Q; The New Deal; Onism Qi; Party People; Rebel Disco; The Russ Liquid Test; Safi’s Lab; Smash & Grab; Smokovich; Thriftworks; Tnertle and Unlimited Aspect. The lineup is its biggest yet, hosting over 50 musicians across three stages, with special late night sets, gem and mineral exhibits, art galleries, painters, dancers, daytime workshops, and much more.

The Pima County Fairgrounds are surrounded by nature and resides in an expansive, desert environment, creating the perfect setting for Gem & Jam. The multi-stage music and arts festival is offering camping options for the first time!
In addition to this new element, Gem & Jam will be expanding on its experience with world-class visuals, unique stage designs, artist galleries, live paintings, experiential installations, daytime workshops, gem and mineral vendors and much more.
Tickets are available here –
Stay connected –


Slim Freedom Receives Head Nod from Snoop, Usher, and Vic Mensa

Photo Credits: Joshua Albanese
Ashely “SLIM FREEDOM” Stevenson held her first major concert this past Saturday after a remarkable rise in social media that rocketed her to 3.6 Million views on a video that was posted of her playing “Landslide” in the Chicago subway transit back in April 2016. Relatively unknown at that time to the mass public, her amazing video hovered at around a thousand views until it was reposted by Snoop Dogg, Usher, and Vic Mensa just this past month.
Unlike many other buskers that have made their daily bread down in the warm tunnels, beneath the Chicago streets, Slim Freedom quickly found that the growing accolades would put her directly in the spotlight; as news of her rising popularity started to pop up in the mainstream media. Before 2016 was over she had already landed a spot on WGN television and was being courted by new hot Chicago artist management company Ambassador Gold Label, who set up and fully produced her first major live performance. (posted below)
The show, called “From the Subway to the Stage”, was an exclusive industry event that sold out within a few days before Slim Freedom took the stage. The venue, a new and fully developed recording/soundstage studio called Embassy Studios, made this it’s inaugural event. Just off of Western Avenue and 14th street this jaw dropping venue lives right around the corner from Cinespace and Lagunitas Brewery. Equipped with everything from professional lighting, HD cameras, a fully projection mapped room and a sound system that could blow the skirt off the Queen Mother herself it was the perfect setting to display how much of a powerhouse Slim Freedom truly is. The team Stevenson has acquired in the Ambassador GL family aren’t messing around. This is apparent in how they are able to make the kinds of moves that they are making with Slim Freedom in such a short amount of time.

In only one month this wonderful artist who was just trying to hear her mesmerizing voice in the echo of the concrete tunnels has now taken the first steps toward a major career in the music industry. Already being approach by some major artists for collaboration and being signed to independent Ambassador Gold Label, Slim Freedom has now become a team that ranges from lighting designers and camera operators to media managers and merch handlers. Slim Freedom is a fully developed act.
When asked how she felt about it:
CMF: So how has this process been for you coming into a major operation from busking on the streets?
AS: Man,…I can’t even…Man, I just feel blessed you know. Everybody here [Ambassador] has just been blowing my mind. {shakes her head in awe} I really…Man.
CMF: Are you ok?
AS: {Smiles Brightly} Definitely! Hell Yeah!
Stevenson’s voice was sweet, raspy, and full of joy. She had a kind demeanor and seemed to spend more time listening than talking. When I met her I walked in to her memorizing, not lyrics but names. Curiously I asked who, thinking it would be some industry big wig, but she responded that it was a few fans of hers that were invited.
AS: Man, Playing on the street you meet a lot of people, you know. It’s hard sometimes to remember all the names when it’s easier to recall the faces.  I just want them to know I remember not just their face but who they are. It feels good when someone recalls you by name, you know. It’s small but I want them to know that I appreciate them and not just hear me say it on stage.
I kept wanting to just give her a hug in hopes that some of that good feeling would rub off. Talking with her I could see there is something special about her spirit that just exuded a remarkable urban grace similar to what we have seen in the past with the likes of Lauren Hill, Erica Badu, or Bob Marley. Stevenson is definitely a star on the rise having moved from the streets to the stage in a hard way that her momentum is undeterminable at this point.
There’s really no telling where she could go. Though we have a pretty good idea which direction she is headed. So, to Slim Freedom, I say:
We will be watching with anticipation and listening with open ears and open hearts.
Check out some of the footage from the show by clicking this link:
Slim Freedom performs at Embassy Studios Chicago
For more info contact:
-Mark Trace
Senior Writer and Editor CMF

Art Festivals

Reaction New Year's Eve – Never Look Back

Reaction NYE returned to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont after their extraordinary success of the previous year. The indoor convention center allowed for ample amount of room to hold two separate stages and as well as a Silent disco. Their was the Main Stage called The Warehouse, a stage to the side called The Arcade Stage, and a Silent Disco Lounge in the room just adjacent. The Event came equipped with vendors offering a variety of festive gear; including apparel and hats. This two day event held a variety artists including some national and international names; excitingly, we even saw some of our very own Chicago local artists!
We were welcomed in with an interactive art exhibit of a large piped pyramid glowing in melting florescent lights. It stood proudly as a swarm of patterns bounced off the canvas like surface that was mapped in projection of ethereal energy fields. We were drawn further in towards the stages dressed in moving lights. Magenta, yellow, and red fractals swung from side to side over our heads onto the industrial piped ceiling and reflected off the black finished show room floor. The lights were calibrated to the sound of the high hitting snares and of the dark trance music that boomed through our chest walls. “The Warehouse” I thought to myself, what a fitting name for this vibe. The atmosphere was somewhat more sheltered that any straight up underground rave with some undisclosed location because we were allowed to have a great time without any haunting feelings of it being busted by cops at any point.
Headlining for the first night was Anderson Paak, Dillon Francis, Danny Brown, and tying it all up was an incredible performance by Flume.
I was pleasantly surprised by an amazing performance from Anderson Paak. From the beginning of the performance it looked like just your run of the mill rapper and dj act; but then it got even more interesting! Not only could he rap but he also had an amazing singing voice and on top of all that he began playing drums while doing all of this ! They definitely had inspiration from funk, rnb, as well as their very own take on modern rap music. He covered a variety of styles and was accompanied by a truly talented band and keyboardist.

We started our way towards the pin ball machines as we work with the trance stage. Here we found great inspiration for snapping shots of many dancers and groups of friends. We were lucky enough to be able to check out many people performing poi and shufflers with bright LED shoes. A girl stood towards the crowd as prismatic colors evolved from the darkness from end to end of a taunt string which had magically flown through the air. We watched the girl perform poi with such adept fluidity that with further speculation it proved to be such a natural part of who she was.

A rumble of snare rolls starting raising to encourage the breaks from within the music and shufflers began making their marks on the floor. Out of the corner of my eyes I saw videographers followed by bright lights as they traveled around the crowd looking for their next muse. The influence of their camera work brought out the vibrancy of the shy and encouraged for the confidence of the poised. A girl dressed in a black jumpsuit and hair pulled into buns on the top of her head replicated some sort of hybrid cat woman. She showcased her LED shoes for the camera by cutting shapes and smiling. I noticed dancers were completely in the moment loosing themselves within the arpeggiated melodies of Air Sine.
Dillon Francis performance pulled a lot of inspiration out of the Chicago trap scene. Large Screens on each side of the main stage showcased mirrors like geometric patterns then back to Dillon Francis who sported a Hawks Jersey. He threw down one of the filthiest performances I have seen thus yet from him. It was a then refreshed with soft melodic break towards the middle allowing us to collect our thought for just moments to just go right back into another episode of bass drops and an even hard finale. His set was definitely harder than his set at summer set so I’m guessing he must have learned how we in Chicago like our electronic scene!

Flume was a very anticipated performance as he always keeps the audience in suspense in his set openings. This performance was no different. It began with an angelic choir as a high feeling of peace swept into the crowd. For moments it allowed us to rethink the way we judged and second guess ourselves. The way we pulled down upon our shirts and fixed our hair or the way we create bubbles between ourselves from society. The sound was engineered so precisely that it was a completely obvious to what this artist wanted us to take from him. A white light glazed over our eye lids transcending us with the reinvention of music. He completely threw out any stereotype of electronic music and created his own path. By simply of breaking the habit of the monogamous; it began differing our language of expressing ourselves. He placed his performance solemnly somewhere between where an epiphany could be reached through the Vatican walls and who’s lives were dedicated to the forces of what drove our being into an electric innovation of the future tense. He continued on with some of his most well known tracks as well as others from his new album Skin including my new favorite “Insane.”
NYE night was headlined by acts such as Gucci Mane, Manic Focus, Tchami, and ending with Zeds Dead.
Tchami made it all the way from France to make it out profiling his future house sound for us.
In contrast to the night before this night The Arcade Stage came harder with trap acts such as Jsquared as well as Kyral x Banko. The stage were packed and the crowd ate up all the filth they were throwing down. The night of NYE was especially lit because of the overwhelming excitement for the countdown. The crowd went double as hard this night as the night before and their was and even more feel of adrenaline in the air. The acts that were booked for this night only further motivated a rage to tie up 2016.
As unexpected as it could have been the count down was then MC’ed by local DJ from group Porn and Chicken! Under his honors we were welcomed into the new year and said good riddance to 2016!

Moments after Dom’s midnight countdown; Zeds Dead took the stage. As the first act of the new year all other acts will have a hard bar to surpass! They killed their set; but of course I wouldn’t have expected anything less from them. Die hard fans were having the absolute time of their lives dancing and cheering to familiar tunes. Their set was incomparable to any I have heard yet of theirs in Chicago. They were completely in sync with what the crowd wanted and created an epic dance party setting off 2017 with high expectations to what this year will bring.
We tried to savior the moment as long as we could but by the end of the night crowds began scrambling all around us. Heading out within our random conversation with strangers who we had become in someway emotionally attached to. 2016 came and went and if I learned anything from last year; it was to never look back! 2017 is our chance for a fresh new start no matter at what point of life we are at or what kind of trouble we think we found ourselves in. I am looking forward to what turn music will take this year; knowing now there are no boundaries to our generation!