Essence Festival

Bill Lee

The Essence Festival runs July 4 to 7 in New Orleans, with speakers at the convention center and musical acts at the Superdome. It also fills up clubs and other venues around town at night. Nola.com and Times-Picayune music writer Alison Fensterstock gave WWNO some notes on what she’s looking forward to at this year’s Essence.

The Essence Music Festival is dropping the music — from its name, that is.

The festival held in New Orleans every July 4th weekend for the past 18 years has rebranded itself The Essence Festival. Organizers say the change is designed to showcase the event as more than a music festival.

Still, music will remain a focus for the 19th annual festival, which is July 4-7.

The lineup includes more than 30 acts — a number of them Essence veterans. On the roster are Jill Scott, Maxwell, New Edition, Charlie Wilson, Keyshia Cole, LL Cool J and Brandy.

The 2012 Essence Music Festival drew 413,000 people to New Orleans for the four-day event held over the Fourth of July weekend.

That's less than the 422,000 who gathered for the 2011 festival. Last year the festival ran for three days.

This was the 18th anniversary of the festival which features nightly concerts at the Superdome and free, daily "empowerment" seminars and community events at the city's convention center.

For the last 18 years, the Essence Music Festival has been the go-to event for African-Americans, especially African-American women. For three days in New Orleans, hundreds of thousands show up for R&B and gospel concerts and panels on politics, financial planning and parenting.

If it's a party, as creator George Wein describes it, it's a party with a purpose.

"New Orleans is a party city and they party," Wein says. "People party here. If you go to the hotels — 40-floor hotels — [there's] like 40 floors of parties."

Alex Boyd brings 'blue-eyed' soul to Essence

Jul 8, 2012

He has danced with Debbie Allen, acted alongside Bruce Willis, blended his voice with Patti Labelle's and even dabbled with opera.

But Alex Boyd's true calling has always been classic, old-school soul — despite being one of only a handful of white performers in the genre.

Boyd says he was "over the moon" about his closing night debut performance on Sunday at the Essence Music Festival.

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