Essence Festival - Beyoncé, LL Cool J top N.O. performances

The Essence Festival returns to New Orleans for another July 4th weekend of music and empowerment.

Maxwell headlines on the main stage on Friday night, followed by the headlining New Edition on Saturday. Beyoncé, the superstar who performed at the Super Bowl halftime show in the Superdome in February, closes the festival Sunday night.

Saturday on the main stage also features Grammy nominee Keyshia Cole and BET Lifetime Achievement Award winner Charlie Wilson, the Gap Band singer who resurrected his career and became a solo star.

LL Cool J, the rap star and actor who released his latest album, Authentic, in April, is another of Friday’s main stage performers. Janelle Monáe, the closing performer for last weekend’s BET Awards broadcast, is among Sunday’s main-stage stars.

Essence 2013’s deep talent roster also includes three-time Grammy winner Jill Scott (Friday on the main stage), Beyoncé’s sister, Solange (early Saturday on the main stage), and Emeli Sandé, the British singing star who performed for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics from London.

New Orleans talent this year at Essence includes Shamarr Allen and the Underdawgs (Friday at the Coca-Cola Superlounge), Kourtney Heart (Sunday at the Ford Superlounge) and Luke James (Sunday at the McDonald’s Superlounge).

Single day tickets for Essence range from $50 to $1,000. They’re available at

In addition to music at the Superdome, the Essence Empowerment Experience, taking place throughout the weekend at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, features dozens of civic leaders, policy makers and entertainers — including Steve Harvey, Cory Booker, Rev. Al Sharpton and Master P — in free talks and seminars.

For more information about the Essence Festival and Essence Empowerment Experience, see