When club/party promoters start referring to a weekend as Essence Festival Weekend, you know it's a big deal. And it is a big deal having the 2006 Essence Music Festival here in Houston, after years of it being a summer attraction for the city of New Orleans. It's obvious why the festival had to flock to Texas, as Hurricane Katrina ravaged and traumatized the city, and the Superdome -- the festival's home base -- is reportedly still going through repairs. (Essence organizers say they chose Houston for the aid and service the city gave Katrina evacuees.)
And hey, you know what they say -- the show must go on. For three days at Reliant Park, it will be a festival of soulfully massive proportions. Jamie Foxx. Mary J. Blige. LL Cool J. Earth, Wind & Fire and Maze & Frankie Beverly for the grown folk. Chris Brown and Keyshia Cole for the youngsters. There will even be a New Edition reunion. (We'll believe that when we see it!) Along with the main-stage action, there'll also be lounge shows featuring such alt-soul performers as Goapele, Kindred the Family Soul, Musiq and the Brand New Heavies.
And since the festival is also billed as a party with a purpose, seminars -- "empowerment seminars," to be exact -- will be held during the festival. Scheduled speakers will include Blige, Foxx, Jill Scott, Common, Nas, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Danny Glover, Michael Eric Dyson, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and Karrine Steffans, author of Confessions of a Video Vixen. (Hey, they can't all be scholars!) So not only do you get some all-star music at this festival, you get some all-star positive messages as well. There is talk that the festival will return to its rightful home next summer. So catch all this big beautiful blackness while you can. Festival runs today through Monday, July 3.
July 1-3, 6 p.m.