2024 June Jam Music Festival brings EDM music to Flagstaff | Phoenix New Times

June Jam EDM festival brings music, art and unity to Flagstaff

The Playa Ponderosa is the place to be this weekend.
June Jam is an annual event in Northern Arizona.
June Jam is an annual event in Northern Arizona. Courtesy of June Jam
Share this:
This weekend, June 21 to 23, June Jam Music Festival will be held at Playa Ponderosa, a popular camping, sightseeing and festival destination located just outside of Flagstaff, for its sixth year.

This year, June Jam sees its largest year of attendance yet, as people come from both near and far to experience a weekend filled with crisp weather in the 80s; a wide assortment of EDM music, headlined by artists such as Eprom, Justin Martin and Opiuo; live entertainment including comedy shows, live music, and cabarets; spiritual experiences such as guided meditation and yoga workshops; scenic views; a unique community experience; resources including harm-reduction sites and sobriety meet-ups; and more.

Designed to be a holistic experience, June Jam includes many features that make it well-suited for a weekend getaway, including plenty of space for tent and RV camping; a variety of food vendors such as Freak Bros. Pizza, Tot Box, The Sassy Fig and Alchemy Roast; a BYOB policy, a contrast to the criticism of festivals charging exorbitant prices for drinks; and showers, porta-potties and beautification stations on site.

“We want to be an experience that is more than just about music, it's workshops, it's yoga, it's art, it's good food from cool vendors,” says Christian Cortes, co-founder and music director of June Jam. “We wanted to provide something that's more than just a ‘come listen to music, go home’ experience that so many festivals tend to end up becoming, especially as they move up in size. We've managed to maintain a very intimate feeling even as we've grown through the many years.”

click to enlarge
Hammocks on the playa.
Courtesy of June Jam

June Jam, formerly Juniper Jam, was first hosted in Prescott in 2018 at Juniper Well Ranch, with attendance of just over 250 people. Founded originally by Peter Baden, Juniper Jam was the first-ever festival to be held at that venue. June Jam, which was founded by Cortes and Jerry Rider, as well as Sean Elstins, Stephen Orr and Richard Pellino, was created partially as a response to the state of the larger festival scene, which many EDM fans have complained prioritizes profit over fan experience.

“When events are bigger, you lose some of that intimacy that smaller events in the sub-5,000-person ... attendance range are able to maintain. You see a lot of the same people over the course of the weekend, and you can form legitimate relationships with those people,” Rider says.

Over time, the festival has grown rather significantly, with the 2019 audience tripling the 2018 attendance. Today, the festival hosts thousands of attendees at Playa Ponderosa, nestled in Flagstaff’s Coconino National Forest. The venue however, a cozy and intimate section of the gigantic woods, creates a specific, unique atmosphere for June Jam, which holds three EDM stages: The Oasis, The Stoop and The Nook; a Dewomp stage for comedy, workshops and other entertainment; and plenty of room for attendees to camp and explore the 75-acre festival grounds, keeping the intimacy of June Jam alive even as attendance continues to grow.

“The beauty of the off-grid, kind of remote nature of the event is knowing that people coming are invested,” Rider says. “It's really a holistic, immersive experience that 's kind of like an alternate reality, where people live in a way that's more authentic to who they are as a person.”

To make the most of the beauty and reflective nature of Playa Ponderosa, June Jam operates by guiding principles and rules, called the ethos, to create a festival that prioritizes community, togetherness, and gratitude for nature. The principles include things like self-care and generosity, purity of heart, accountability and consent and "don't be a dick."

“Everyone who buys a ticket sees (the principles) before they come, and it's on our staff shirts,” Rider says. “It makes me proud to see everyone getting together and having a thriving community where people are actively looking out for each other and ensuring that everybody feels safe and has a good time.”

click to enlarge
Party in the forest.
Courtesy of June Jam

As well as emphasizing community, the festival includes a series of classes and workshops meant to help attendees connect more deeply with their mind, body, and spirit, as well as finding harmony with the environment and community around them. Classes include a variety of yoga techniques, including somatic and blindfolded yoga, herbal education, beginner and advanced meditation techniques, healing massages, community acupuncture and more.

“We're trying to make the experience something that at every point of interaction, it feels like it's been curated for the attendees.” Rider says. “We want to create a community that people can take with them home that kind of extends throughout the rest of the year and gives some context to their life overall, which is what's really beautiful about (the festival).”

At its core, June Jam is a music festival, but what makes it special is the unique blend of entertainment that graces the stage all weekend. From house sets to dubstep, the three EDM stages of June Jam strides to celebrate the underground EDM culture that spawned the festival scene.

“We have great stage production, but it's not just like a bunch of lasers and lights to distract you from the fact that there's no soul.” Cortes says. “We have a soul, and our music has soul. So we've got a little bit of all of the different styles of electronic music.”

The headliners of the event, which include Opiuo, an EDM artist from New Zealand known for his unique visual experiences, on Friday; EPROM, a Portland-based electronica and dubstep artist, on Saturday and Justin Martin, a DJ and producer hailing from San Francisco, on Sunday.

Om Unit, who performs on the first day of the festival on The Stoop stage, describes his sound as an “amalgamation of U.K., U.S. and Caribbean dance music,” having spent the majority of his life in Bristol, located in west England. Unit will be performing for the first time at June Jam, making it his first time back in Arizona in a few years.

“I’m excited to find out more about what (June Jam) is about on the day,” Om Unit says. “People can expect heavy bass, breakbeats, techno, rave elements and even deeper moments, depending on where the show goes.”

Another artist on the lineup, Canadian DJ and producer Khiva, who plays a sort of dark and dreamy bass, describes June Jam as being a wonderful experience filled with good energy.

“A combination of the people and palace make it what it is,” Khiva says. “It has a very organic feel, a lot of intention and heart put into every single detail as well as a down-to-earth atmosphere which makes it very homey and welcoming.”
click to enlarge
June Jam is held on the Playa Ponderosa.
Courtesy of June Jam

The passion and welcomingness of June Jam is seen both on and off the EDM stages. Aside from the three main stages, The DeWomp stage serves as a sort of variety show of June Jam, bringing a wide range of entertainers to the stage from musicians to stand up comedians to fashion and burlesque shows onto the stage.

What June Jam prides itself most on the unique way it brings people together. From community bonfires to group decompression activities to support groups such as the sobriety meet-up hosted on the grounds, June Jam brings people together from all across Arizona to enjoy music, food, nature, and each other’s company.

“It's everybody,” Rider said. “It's the weirdos, the misfits, the huge music fans, the artists, teachers, lawyers. It's just all types of people.”

Denver-based DJ and producer Skysia, who will be performing Saturday, describes June Jam as his second home. The artist, whose music falls under a genre some EDM fans consider “cinematic bass” — heavy bass with a melodic undertone — first was booked to play June Jam in 2021 and has returned each year the festival has been held since.

“There’s just truly so much magic happening at this event,” Skysia says. “The people that come to this fest are loving, kind, hilarious, and just so welcoming. I was also blown away by their storytelling abilities. This place is a playground for everyone to truly let loose and be themselves.”
Can you help us continue to share our stories? Since the beginning, Phoenix New Times has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix — and we'd like to keep it that way. Our members allow us to continue offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food, and culture with no paywalls.