With its 20th anniversary on the horizon, Essence Communications made some bold moves to continue to improve the already successful 18-year history of the festival, both as an audience experience and as an extension of the magazine.

As they began planning the festival’s 19th anniversary, the Time Warner, Inc. property sought a production company that offered the talent and experience to bring efficiency, technology and innovation to the forefront of the newly named, “ESSENCE Festival” for its 2013 event.  After a broad nationwide search, they chose Solomon Group as their new Production Services partner.

ESSENCE Communications and Solomon Group got right to work making sure that the Essence brand shined as brightly throughout the festival as the top-tier artists and popular brands that help draw fans from around the country.  After six months of work, separate concert events at a new venue were added, and the production design and operations of the nighttime concert series at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome were reimagined.

The Production Design team for the Mainstage was led by Jonathan Foucheaux, Matthew Foucheaux and Steve Dixon.  To reduce delays between acts, they added a massive turntable to the stage, allowing performers to set up and follow each other quickly.   The team employed over 500 square meters of LED video tiles -- 25mm, 15mm and 7mm -- to create multiple, massive IMAG and eye candy screens.  Lighting included 68 Vari-Lite VL3500 FXs and Spots, 66 Clay Paky Sharpys, 24 Martin MAC Viper Air FXs and much more.

A-List stars including LL Cool J, Jill Scott, Tamia, Janelle Monáe, and others performed to excited crowds.  And when one of the biggest stars in the world brought her tour to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to close out ESSENCE Festival, the production team pulled off a magic act.  Overnight, the festival’s Mainstage (which had taken weeks to set up) was transformed into Beyonce’s worldwide tour.

In all, over 540,000 fans had descended on New Orleans to attend what has become one of the most popular, annual events in North America.  The performers at ESSENCE Festival 2013 played to record-breaking crowds, who no doubt expect even bigger things during the 20th anniversary this July.

Design Team

Production Design:  Jonathan Foucheaux, Matthew Foucheaux, Steve Dixon
LED Content:  Eli McKinney
Lighting Programmer:  Ryan Stumpp
Sound Design:  Eddie Pearce - VER Tour Sound

 

Key Equipment

(68) Vari-Lite VL3500FX
(68) Vari-Lite VL3500 Spot
(24) Martin MAC Viper AirFX
(66) Clay Paky Sharpy
(20) Martin Atomic 3000 Strobe
(30) Comear LED StripLite
(30) Chauvet Nexus 4X4
(10) ReelFX DF50 Hazer
(2) GrandMA 2 Full Size
(240) BR-15 15mm LED
(556) BB-25 25mm LED
(120) BR-7 7mm LED
(48) Martin LC 2140
(175) Barco MiStrip
(2) PRG M-Box Media Server
(124) JBL VTX V25

(64) JBL VTX G28