Cross The Tracks Is A Reminder Of What The UK Festival Calendar Is Missing

A musically rich and diverse event...

Cross The Tracks took over Brixton’s Brockwell Park for its fifth edition last Sunday, kicking festival season into full motion. Dedicated to delivering the best in soul, jazz and R&B, the day festival did just that with its musically rich and diverse line-up. 

Vocalists and instrumentalists are the luminaries, a blend of legacy acts and new wave artists, which meant you were as likely to find your new favourite artist as you were to experience a legendary performer. Hip-hop royalty Eve tore up the Mainline stage delivering a constant stream of iconic tracks from her catalogue. The riff of ‘Let Me Blow Ya Mind’  instantaneously sent the crowd into a frenzy. ‘Tambourine’ and ‘Who’s That Girl’ kept the pace up, proving that 00s R&B and hip-hop fusion is as lethally captivating now as it was back in its zenith. 

The D-Railed stage, curated and hosted by the wonderful Blues Project team, delivered a flawless line-up of performers for the people – showcasing artists that often fly under the radar at UK festivals despite their popularity. Ama Lou’s acapella version of ‘Northside’ was a standout moment, along with Venna’s instrumental of his song with Jvck James ‘Sun, Moon & Herbs’. Jamilah Barry delivered her set with unmatched finesse, both a charismatic entertainer and impressive vocalist, she’s one of those hypnotic artists who’ll be eternally cemented in your mind once you’ve witnessed her perform.  

A special mention is reserved for Lady Wray who graced the Terminal stage, a singer who can switch up from gritty to graceful at lightspeed, her enviable vocal range and stamina delivering sonics for the soul.  Her performances of ‘Guilty’ and ‘Piece Of Me’  solidify that soul music is very much alive and thriving. 

Summer Pearl also proved the same point, bringing her jazz and reggae-infused neo-soul to the stage, refusing for her set to be cut short, she and her band continued to play on despite her soundtrack being cut. The crowd supported her rebellion by belting out lyrics, creating one of those unifying moments that are truly unique to festivals. 

DJ, producer, multi-instrumentalist and hip-hop pioneer, Madlib, doubled up on sets, setting the perfect summer vibe for his daytime solo performance, before teaming up in the evening with long-time collaborator Freddie Gibbs, who stepped in last minute to fill up the missing slot from Erykah Badu’s last minute withdrawal. Not the most fitting substitute for the enigmatic queen of neo-soul but nevertheless an energy-fuelled performance from the duo and an added bonus for hip-hop heads. 

En Vogue were enlisted to close the night with a set that was nostalgic yet ever-present, reeling off feel good songs that transcend their era by virtue of their unequivocal infectiousness. Naturally, sequinned head to toe, the trio reminded the crowd of their legendary legacy in setting the standard for 90s R&B. Singing iconic classics, ‘Don’t Let Go’, ‘Whatta Man’ and ‘My Lovin’’, in addition to renditions of 60s and 70s hits that could never miss, from Rose Royce’s ‘Car Wash’ to Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’. 

Undoubtedly one of the best parts of Cross The Tracks is its execution of bringing classic genres to the present day. corto.alto prides himself on making ‘future jazz’ music and the festival provides the perfect stage for him to reignite a love for the genre that’s often seen as reminiscent of the past. His skill is undeniable, and how refreshing it was to see a crowd of all ages all hyped over the energy of the brass ensemble. 

The Funk Junction stage is self-explanatory and lived up to its name, with sets from the likes of Channel One, Alexander Nut, Mr Scruff and Heléna Star going off enough to get the crowd contentedly dancing in the mud. 

The Caboose stage was graced by some incredible R&B and neo-soul talent including the likes of emerging talents Victoria Jane, IYAMAH and Nayana AB. Cross The Tracks programming is an instant shutdown to whoever said R&B was dead. Closing the night, Brainstory brought their wistful, dreamy sound all the way from L.A. 

Signal was an intimate space, but the energy contained within it was unparalleled. People were there for one reason only, to dance. And if you weren’t careful you could easily spend hours lost in there, with sets from the likes of Ella Knight, Jade Edwards, and Soulqu3st entrancing the crowd. 

Cross The Tracks effortlessly brings classic genres into the present, reviving a love for modern interpretations of sounds of the past and that’s really what makes it a standout festival. The crowd is made up of music lovers who are there to appreciate the breadth and diversity of live music. Despite the surge of and demand for dance music focused festivals over the last century, Cross The Tracks have nailed it at offering a festival that places musicians at the forefront and is appealing to the youth as much as other generations. There was clearly a missing jigsaw piece in the UK’s extensive festival circuit and Cross The Tracks completes it perfectly. 

Words: Jessica Rogers

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