Mark Reveley is expecting big things at the 15th annual Gem & Jam Festival.
As Dirtwire, he, David Satori and Evan Fraser bring new music and video elements to the Pima County Fairgrounds. The festival runs from Friday 3rd February to Sunday 5th February, with Dirtwire taking the stage on Sunday 5th February, right before friends, The String Cheese Incident.
“We’re going to have a little bit of improvement, we’re just going to mix it up,” Revelli said.
Dirtwire mixes traditional instruments with modern technology, which they call a mixture of ethnomusicology and a state of psychedelic trance.
The sound is informed by Dirtwire’s travels and performances around the world. From the favelas in Brazil, Femi Kuti’s shrine in Lagos, bluegrass clubs in Tokyo, ayahuasca ceremonies in Central America, Gamelan performances in Bali, desert festivals in the Australian outback and the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s modernized new capital Astana, the band spreads its message by building bridges between musical cultures.
The trio play an array of ancient and modern instruments including West African kamale ngoni, jaw harps, space fiddles, whamola basses, Rickenbacker electric 12-string guitars, bowed banjos and mouth harps from around the world, all woven together to create a contemporary rhythm for laptop.
Dirtwire consider themselves a leader in mixing experimental electronic music in their wide array of world instrumentation with sampled beats and 808s.
The intertwining genres draw different people to their shows, Fraser said.
“That was great,” he said. “Sometimes there will be a child in the audience and I wonder how it got there. I’m glad they’re front row and enjoying themselves, don’t get me wrong.
“Their mother must have figured out how to get him in there. We draw so much from music from my parents’ generation – old blues stuff. Mark did a great musical study of the delta blues and that stuff comes out in our production. Genre-wise, we’re all over the map – same with different eras. That’s definitely part of the fun. We love to show how the music is made and the instruments we use. There are many interesting tools that we have collected. We have to figure out how to travel with them.
The three musicians met at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, where they studied world music in various forms.
“We were exposed to the staples of the band — electronic music, blues, country and world music,” he said. “We mixed them at an early point and continued to work together in different forms in different groups and learned how to combine those three things.”
Reveley said he feels the band is heavily influenced by the Southwest in many ways.
“We grew up on the West Coast,” he said. “For us, in a sense, the west represents the frontier for many people. The Southwest represents the frontier for us. I’m from the northwest. It (the southwest) is an exotic part of our own backyard. It was a lot of fun for us to discover it and make connections there.”
The songwriting process is simple. They start with a beat, lyric or riff and expand on that, according to Fraser.
“We have a cycle that starts it and we start adding things to support that idea,” he said. “We pass it back and forth. It unfolds as we follow our inspiration.”
Gem & Jam
WHEN: Various times from Friday 3rd February to Sunday 5th February
WHERE: Pima County Fairgrounds, 11300 S. Houghton Road, Tucson
PRICE: Tickets start at $75