Now entering its 19th year, the Essence Festival has turned into the largest event celebrating African-American culture and music in the country.
This year, the festival will include a main stage and five superlounges filled with music.
The festival also features the Essence Empowerment Series — informative, uplifting panels and speakers at the Ernest J. Morial Convention Center — and the first-ever Family Reunion Day at Woldenberg Park on Thursday.
Family Reunion Day boasts a full day of live music, food from New Orleans vendors and, at 9 p.m., a spectacular view of the city’s Dueling Barges Independence Day extravaganza, Go Fourth on the River.
With so much going on, fans may be overwhelmed with all the choices. Here are a few top must-see acts at the 2013 Essence Festival.
10:40 p.m. Sunday,
Superdome Main Stage
There is an elite club for only those iconic enough to be known solely by their first names, and Beyoncé has a platinum membership.
Performing for well over half her life, she has captivated audiences in music, film, fashion and, well, just about everything else. From her success in Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé moved on to a solo career with hits such as “Crazy in Love” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”
She expanded her repertoire to include films and received critical acclaim for her role in “Dreamgirls.”
Beyoncé continues to remain one of the most relevant and important figures in entertainment. Her list of accomplishments goes far past impressive, and she has received almost 300 awards.
11:15 a.m. Friday
Empowerment Experience Stage in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
A multifaceted performer, Steve Harvey has entertained the masses as an actor, comedian, radio and television personality, and best-selling author.
Harvey began doing stand-up comedy in the mid-1980s and parlayed that into a variety of other gigs, including starring in “The Original Kings of Comedy.”
Harvey has starred in several films and hosts a television talk show, morning radio show and “The Family Feud” game show. His best-selling book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” was turned into a romantic comedy.
8:05 p.m. Friday
Superdome main stage
Nearly 30 years ago, audiences were introduced to a young rapper in the 1985 film “Krush Groove” when he auditioned with the song “I Can’t Live Without My Radio.”
Since then, LL Cool J’s career has included 13 studio albums, including “Mama Said Knock You Out” and his recent offering, “Authentic,” as well as more than 35 television and film roles.
He has ventured into other avenues to showcase his talent, such as hosting the Grammy Awards, authoring four books and taking on the role of NCIS Special Agent Sam Hanna on the CBS police drama “NCIS: Los Angeles.”
7:10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
This funk duo includes members Chuck Lightning and Nate “Rocket” Wonder, both of whom are also members of the Wondaland Arts Society. Their unique blend of funk and pop is a refreshing and futuristic departure from the norm of the Essence Festival.
Deep Cotton grabbed the attention of many with their song “We’re Far Enough From Heaven Now We Can Freak Out.” The song was featured in a Sonos wireless speakers commercial with Grammy-nominated artist Janelle Monáe, a co-founder of Wondaland Arts Society.
Essence would not be complete without some of the musical staples of New Orleans. Here are three local acts not to be missed during the festival.
7:30 p.m. Sunday
Mia Borders has become a fixture in the New Orleans music scene, known for her eclectic combination of blues, funk and soul. A vocalist and guitarist, Borders was nominated for Best Emerging Artist at the 2010 Big Easy Music Awards.
Go-Go Brass Funk
3:20 p.m. Thursday
Family Reunion, Woldenberg Park
With all the pieces of a stellar New Orleans brass ensemble, the Brass-A-Holics mix the traditional brass sound with the go-go sounds of D.C. This eight-piece band is culturally diverse, but their sound is one singular sensation.
& the Underdawgs
7:10 p.m. Friday
Allen and his band have combined pop, rock, hip-hop and soul to create a musical gumbo with their latest album, “504-799-8147.” Shamarr has performed for President Barack Obama not once but twice, and the band also has served as cultural ambassadors in Central Asia for the State Department.
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