Filed Under:  Entertainment

Essence steps outside the Dome

1st July 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Having July 4th fall on a Thursday this year is a boon to many attendees of the Essence Music Festival (July 4-7) and for that matter to folks who are able to make a four-day weekend out of the holiday. Many times since the event’s inception in 1995, festival-goers had to forgo seeing the outdoor fireworks while enjoying the explosion of music inside the Superdome. This year they get to do both. Plus, in the spirit of the Fourth of July, Essence has kicked in an additional event.

On Thursday, the festival will present its Family Reunion Day along the Mississippi River at Woldenberg Park. It continues from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. and culminates with the annual Go Fourth on the River fireworks display. The free event includes musical performances from a mix of local favorites and nationally renowned artists, cooking competitions and demonstrations and games. Carla Ferrell, a co-host of the Steve Harvey Show, will act as host with New Orleans DJ Mike Swift keepin’ the beats comin’ throughout the day.

The diversity of New Orleans musical offerings will be on display primarily early in the afternoon. Without a doubt, vocalist Cupid (2:05 pm) will get a huge line dance going when he does his hit, “The Cupid Shuffle” that took the nation by storm. Gina Brown (2:35 pm) has also been known to get people on the dancefloor as the old school R&B vocalist sets just the right beat for the bus stop. Visitors can compare the styles of two of New Orleans hottest brass bands, the go-go infused Brass-A-Holics (3:20 pm) and the funky Stooges Brass Band (6:10 pm). There’s some funkadelic goin’ on with another local group, Water Seed (4:40 pm), a five-piece band that also goes towards some smooth jazz.

The national acts included R&B/soul singer Tweet (4 pm), Biz Markie the “Clown Prince of Hip Hop” (5:15) and the legendary Doug E. Fresh (7:30 pm) rappin’ things up in the prestigious closing spot.

As in previous years, Essence Festival presents empowerment seminars at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center that will be held on Thursday through Saturday. Varying themes will be discussed throughout each day. Those participating in the seminars are as star-studded as they are diverse and include Al Sharpton, Master P and former New Orleans mayor and president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial among many others. All the seminars, which take place in the day, are free and no reservations are necessary.

Gospel will be celebrated at the Center on Sunday, July 7, with the free Essence Day of Praise and Inspiration that will honor gospel giants Donnie McClurkin and Tramaine Hawkins. The great Yolanda Adams and our own Tyronne Foster and the Arc Singers are just a few of the many performers at the event.

For complete schedules and further information on all the Essence events, go to www.essence.com/festival.

Bobby “Blue” Bland
January 27, 1930 –
June 23, 2013

When Bobby “Blue” Bland performed at Jazz Fest night concerts onboard the Riverboat President at least the first four rows were full of women. That was undoubtedly the case wherever the vocalist took a stage. Bland had the kind of charisma that drew females to his feet even though he might not have necessarily been considered a “looker.” The vocalist and maker of one of the greatest blues albums of all times, 1961′s Two Steps from the Blues, knew how to caress a song, caress the soul, caress the heart. The great Bobby “Blue” Bland died in Tennessee on Sunday, June 23, 2013 at the age of 83.

New Orleanians were fortunate that Bland was a regular visitor to the city where he, seemingly happily, delivered the much requested hits from the aforementioned album such as the heart-breaking “Cry, Cry, Cry” and “I Pity the Fool.” He’d bring in a big band for his shows in the 1980s that often included the late great New Orleans guitarist Wayne Bennett. Bland’s last performance here was at the 2011 Jazz and Heritage Festival, where in the Blues Tent, he put on a stellar show of his beloved hits. He had the crowd there singing along to one of his later numbers, 1985′s “Members Only.” In the moonlight shining at the 2007 Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival in Lafayette Square, fans felt privileged to hear the legend in such a beautiful and intimate setting. Other venues where Bland put on memorable shows were Tipitina’s, the House of Blues and the Blue Room at the Fairmont Hotel.

Bland, who was born in Rosemark, Tennessee and recorded the much-covered “Further on Up the Road” in 1957, was inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.

Bobby “Blue” Bland’s Two Steps From the Blues is an album that is unique in the world of music because every song is a gem. Those who love the great vocalist know every word. It and the memories of his live performances will keep his legacy alive. “You used to call me Bobby, Little Boy Blue…”

This article originally published in the July 1, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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