POSTED Tue. Jun 24, 2014

Essence: our main stage picks

Essence: our main stage picks
Adam Karlin
Written by ADAM KARLIN
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There’s a lot to love about the Essence Festival. It’s one of the finest gatherings of musicians in a city that is kind of well known for throwing together excellent gatherings of musicians. It’s lecture series enlivens the typical mono-musical focus of a large festival event. And it makes sense: when it comes to African American music, New Orleans is the most important city in the world.

(Yes, yes, I see you, Atlanta and Chicago and New York and Detroit, making a case for your towns, but whatever else you have made – Mo Town and Lee Moses and blues and the rest – it all comes from New Orleans and her muddy, musical soil. You are the stalk and the vine, but we are the seed).

Here are a few things I’m looking forward to out of the immensely packed Essence schedule. Note that all of the below shows are for the man stage – I’m not even scratching the surface of the excellent performers who will be present at The Lounge – we’ll be doing a story on who to catch there soon.

All images courtesy of Wikipedia and artists’ facebook pages.

1 Janelle Monae, 8:20pm, July 3

Neo funk has been a thing for awhile now, but Janelle Monae has perfected the genre, and if you don’t believe me, watch the video for Tightrope and try not to dance. If you are able to listen to that song without bobbing your head or tapping your feet at least once, woops, sorry, you’re dead. The way this woman marries funk to hip-hop, sci-fi tropes and Soul Train-esque backing instrumentals is, in a word, hawt.

2 Prince, 10:30pm, July 3

I haven’t seen Prince live, so take this recommendation with a grain of salt. But look: it’s Prince. Saying Prince has good stage presence is like saying New Orleans gets kind of warm in the summer – it’s an egregious understatement. And besides, he’s recording a new solo album, so you may get a sneak preview of the next Little Red Corvette.

3 Ledisi, 7:45pm, July 4

Celebrate America’s independence by chilling with NOLA-born Ledisi. She’s got pipes like wow, and a smooth sound that recalls the best of early ’90s R&B. Speaking about early ’90s R&B…

4 Mary J. Blige, 11:30pm, July 4

Real Love might have been the best song of 1992. I know proud Mary has released a metric ton of other songs since those halcyon days, but seriously, Real Love is the jam to end all jams. That opening piano riff sends me straight back to the school bus, early adolescent crushes, 8th grade dances and Bugle Boy jeans. Besides this, Miss Blige is clearly one of the great R&B talents of her generation, and missing one of her live performances is tantamount to a crime.

5 Erykah Badu, 7:50pm, July 5

Badu can rightly be considered the Godmother of neo-soul, and besides that, she puts on a great concert, mixing up her maple syrup vocals with an unexpectedly genuinely funny stage presence. Apparently her first roommate in college was from Louisiana, and whenever she performs in this state, she does a dead on impression of the accent that should impress any native.

6 Lionel Richie, 11pm,

C’mon, now. It’s Lionel Richie.

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    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

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    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

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    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

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