GEM Fest celebrates Glens Falls’ wide-ranging Arts Scene

GEM Fest helped clue the local businesses in on the music in the region, making GEM part of the public eye of Glens Falls.

Glens Falls will become a mecca for the arts, with the return of the 4th annual GEM Fest on July 26 and 27. The Glens Falls Entertainment and Music Festival brings together bands from across the greater Glens Falls area, as well as national acts, and combines comedy, live art, film, theater, photography and more at venues around Glens Falls for a FREE two-day event.

The focus on the arts started when Brian Michael visited Gugs in April of 2016. “Gugs is the central venue in Glens Falls where a ton of bands were just starting to cut their teeth at the time – Candy Ambulance, Joe Mansman, William Hale, Asa Morris and The Mess, among others. Mike Rios put together an open mic night on Thursdays, but Gugs was only open from Thanksgiving Eve until April 20,” said Michael, GEM Fest Director. So with the venue closing for the season, and there being very few places in the city of Glens Falls for live music, Brian and Joe Mansman had an idea to hold a Venue Festival in Glens Falls, where venues would host music throughout the day.

The organizers went to the owner of Mean Max Brewing and asked to back him on the festival concept. That led to the owner of 190 Grill and Cinema (now the Downtown Social) getting on board as well. From there, GEM Fest was born and the event became a one-day street fest in the Summer of 2016, which was entirely free to the public. It featured a art gallery presentation at the two venues, and several local bands.

From there, a team effort has helped bring GEM Fest for four consecutive years. Local venues are on board, and local businesses see better business on the day of GEM Fest than they do any other day of the year, according to Michael. With the help of Candice Frye, the Executive Director of LARAC (Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council), which supports the in Warren and Washington counties, Brian was able to secure grant funding. The ever growing event received maximum funding for this year, and with sponsors on board, the fest remains free for the fourth year in a row, accessible for everyone who wants to attend.

The impact of GEM Fest can be seen already. In 2016, there was one venue in town with regular music, plus Gugs was only open part of the year. Now, in 2019, there are four venues that book bands on a regular basis, with a fifth soon to open. Michael says of this development, “GEM Fest helped clue the local businesses in on the music in the region, and certain niche markets – Helping to elevate the visibility of the music & arts in our city. The integration of this festival into an organization called Art in the Public Eye has also further solidified our commitment to creating platforms for local / and now regional musicians – as well as many other forms of art – to be seen and heard in the heart of Hometown USA.”

Since 2016, GEM Fest brings an immense crowd out in support of the arts, with a benefit to local businesses, who are patronized by those who attend. The direct support of local businesses is supplemented by the careful selection of craft vendors – while encouraging patrons to eat and drink at local businesses, due to a markedly low acceptance of food type vending.

Thanks to grants and sponsors, GEM Fest is 99% free, with a fee charged only for the comedy shows each day. Since events are free, venues don’t sell out, although last year three venues reached capacity, a sign of growth after only three years of GEM Fest. In order to bring fans out, Michael says GEM Fest “keeps a high level of integrity, adding the best local musicians and a few national headliners. Getting the local support and financial backing is key to maintaining the fest, and we’re glad to have that for four years now. We are a destination event and it helps grow the scene and throws art in the public eye.”

There is history in the area as well, as plenty of art to be found that GEM Fest has brought greater attention to. The Hyde Collection, which includes work by Rembrandt, Picasso and Edward Hopper, is one of the greatest collections of art in the 518. The Park Theater has recently undergone a $13 million dollar renovation, and the Charles R. Wood Theater in downtown Glens Falls plays host to a wide variety of arts, from plays to concerts to comedians.

With the support of LARAC, Glens Falls can be viewed as always having been an artistic town, with a great deal of artists and painters emerging from the Lower Adirondack area. “There might be five different artistic communities within the city and we want everyone to work together on that day to exhibit what we’ve got as a community.”

GEM Fest is designed so that everything is going on at once, making it a challenge to decide what to see. “What we are encouraging people to do is to come out and see art they may not see otherwise. The music draws them out – if they like comedy, they can check that out, and maybe they see more comedy that year. Some kids might walk by a live painter and be inspired to become a painter. Everywhere you look, there’s something else going on. Walk about the whole city because for the two days, it’s an artistic showcase of Glens Falls.”

In just a few short years, GEM Fest has established itself as a destination event where music and art collide. Find out more at the official website for the festival and check out the music artists who will be performing around town July 26-27.

2019 GEM Fest Music Lineup

  • Chestnut Grove
  • Joe Mansman and the Midnight Revival Band
  • Between Now and Forever
  • Lock 9
  • Paradox Saints
  • The Lucas Garrett Band
  • Switch Mob
  • Zach Matari
  • Sly Fox and the Hustlers
  • Ampevene
  • Timbre Coup
  • Tambourelli & Her Supertrips
  • Safety Meeting
  • Peter Annello
  • Brain Medicine
  • Ugly Muppets
  • Arch Fiends
  • Iüdica
  • Lollygagger
  • Candy Ambulance
  • No More Death Stars
  • Anamon
Free Live MusicGEM FestGlens FallsLARAC