As promised, I woke up on Sunday morning with a stinking hangover and the energy of a depleted lantern that you have to occasionally whack to keep on. Despite waking up like Uncle Fester, rocking up to Cross The Tracks at Brockwell Park was my health pack. More of a Gomez Addams. Now, buckle in and join me on my slow-motion journey around London’s number-one soul, jazz and funk festival.
It wouldn’t be a British festival review without a nod to the weather. Naturally, the forecast was lying, and what was meant to be a cloudy Sunday was now a beautiful example of the sun’s cooking capabilities.
You know what they say, “With great weather comes great fashion”. Cross the Tracks was one of the best-dressed festivals I’ve ever attended. More sophisticated than the typical glittery facepaint and bright colours. It consisted of the same festival vibrancy, just in a subtly complex way. I’d have taken some photos for you, but my storage was consumed by a video of me screaming on the Sky Swing, sorry. (DM me if you want it x.)
It seems fitting that a jazz, soul and funk festival would have a more intricate fashion sense.
We had an immediate reminder of the details and passion in each song on our arrival to the Mainline stage during DOMi & JD BECK, the duo with their insane drumming which set the tone for the rest of the festival.
It was much busier than I thought it’d be but in a manageable catch-energy-off-the-next-person kinda way. The food queues were three times as long as the bar queues; make of that what you will. And the diversity was very heartwarming, I definitely wasn’t expecting huge young groups of pals bouncing around everywhere.
So with the sun belting down, a varied crowd eager to party, and a line-up full of promise here’s what went down.
If I haven’t said, I was moving in slow-motion, (I’m blaming the overall tempo of the festival and not my weak legs, but I’ll leave it open for discussion) so I had a knack of missing the beginning of some of my must-sees. In my defence, there were a lot of clashes though.
The first notable performance was Hak Baker. The East-London lad created an intimate set with the feel of a campfire singalong between hundreds of fans. He was one of the few artists at Cross the Tracks that authentically spans multiple genres, but his attitude and energy sat perfectly with the crowd.
Wesley Joseph drew the first noticeably strong crowd of the day. It drew attention to the sheer number of soul fans across the city and even beyond the country’s border. The pleasantness of the overall atmosphere swept through crowds with the warm winds and grainy synths, despite the pressing undertones of his topics.
We can’t forget EZRA Collective’s set. The pre-2:30 pm ticketholders well into their drinks, half the crowd already sunburned and the tempo is kicked up a notch. On one hand, you’re lost in the rhythms that’d even have your grandma grooving and on the other you’re mesmerised by the independent talent of Femi Koleoso, bassist TJ Koleoso, keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones, trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi, tenor saxophonist James Mollison and the chemistry they have as a erm… collective.
At this point, the clashes started to pile up and I darted around like a slug trying to catch snippets of plenty more including Kelis, Nightmares on Wax, Masego and, of course, Nx Worries (Anderson .Paak & Knxwledge).
Unfortunately, one of our hot picks, Roy Ayers, had to pull out due to Covid so we wish him all the best.
I’ve been to only one other festival that this reminds me of when I was seventeen, called Limetree, where we asked Corinne Bailey-Rae if she wanted to hang out with us (she politely declined). Although on a much smaller scale, it was focussed purely on providing a greater experience than getting steaming in a field – but I always found a way. This time I decided to take the creative spinoffs, the workshops and talks, for a ride.
Being at one with it, I found a deeper connection to the festival during these moments. I realised there was a limit to the number of irregular jazz solos and leftfield songs that I could take in one hit (hate me, I likely deserve it). I’d never taken advantage of workshops at festivals before and brushed them off as a waste of time and if you’re the same, I’d encourage you to try one even for an hour next time- it’ll be one of your fondest memories. Especially if it’s a trombone masterclass.
All-in-all, it was a beautifully delightful day filled with kind-spirited humans and extremely talented artists. Although I’d probably take my girlfriend next time, I found it difficult to look my pal in the eyes and dance to many of the tracks.