Essence Music Festival Houston
IT’S BEEN NEARLY a year since Katrina forced thousands to flee from New Orleans and turned Houston’s Astrodome into a hurricane hotel. Now, with another storm season looming and much of the Gulf Coast still in disrepair, Reliant Park will be a home away from home for another Crescent City evacuee: the Essence Music Festival. Never heard of it? Probably not if you haven’t been reading the sponsoring magazine, whose niche is African American women. Or if you’re tone-deaf to Houston’s rap scene. But hear this: The twelve-year-old celebration, with its powerhouse performances and empowerment seminars, is hip-hop and R&B’s annual blockbuster. The summer’s biggest event is now on your home turf, so you have no excuse.
Besides, this is no mere concert. This is an experience as invigorating as Sunday services. Folks come dressed to the nines, whole families in tow, for three days of singing and dancing and reuniting with long-lost friends and relatives. The music alone will shake your soul (and your booty), with superstars out en masse—Mary J. Blige, Diddy, LL Cool J, Yolanda Adams, Toni Braxton, and Earth, Wind, and Fire, among others. And unlike some hype-a-paloozas, this festival has quantity and quality. Any too-big-for-her-britches performer who doesn’t sing her heart out will have to answer to came-to-party crowds (poor Erykah Badu might still be recovering from her ill-received outing a few years back). And everything’s family friendly, so no bumpin’ and grindin’ (hear that, R. Kelly?), though no one has seemed to mind a shirtless LL Cool J. Best of all, anything’s possible—wild card Bobby Brown reunites with New Edition this year—and you can bet that Maze and Frankie Beverly will bring you to your feet on the final evening. Ten dollars goes to the humbug who can resist doing the slide when they turn it up with “Joy and Pain.”
The self-described “party with a purpose” also packs ’em in with free daily seminars. Jamie Foxx, T.D. Jakes, and Magic Johnson (sound familiar?) are just a few of the personalities leading talks on empowering youth, strengthening relationships, and building wealth. Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton—they won’t miss it either. Nor will Queen Latifah, Terrence Howard, Danny Glover—is there a celeb who’s not coming? As Essence editorial director Susan L. Taylor wrote in her May column: “Having linked arms and aims, we will each leave Houston with … a charge to get the job done.” And, no doubt, with a deeper commitment to sister city New Orleans.
There isn’t much that’ll