Live Report: Cross The Tracks 2023

An excellent all-dayer in South London...

With the spoil of events going on in London on the Sunday of May’s last bank holiday, it seemed that all of the city’s soul, funk and R&B fans found themselves in Brixton’s Brockwell Park for Cross The Tracks festival. Legends from across the gamut of Black music graced the six or so stages across the park – Children of Zeus were typically excellent and Kelis leaned verily heavily on the weight of her timeless hits at the Terminal Stage while Channel One Sound System and David Rodigan (MBE, no less) rounded out the day in expert fashion at the Funk Junction stage.

Over at the main stage, it was the London born acts that excelled on their home turf. Newham’s Alfa Mist and his drummer, double bassist, trumpeter and bassist leave the late afternoon crowd spellbound, performing selects from recently released ‘Variables’ album – even bringing out Emmavie to deliver their collaboration ‘Energy’.

The performance of the day belongs to Ezra Collective. The jazz quintet have a unique camaraderie with the crowd; midway through their set comes a heartfelt speech about the pressures of London living and how those pressures have no right to steal the joy of moments like the one being shared there by all those at the Cross The Tracks mainstage. That bond with the crowd only grows bigger when the EZ rolls into a jumpy rendition of Egypt’s UK Funky classic ‘In The Morning’ – for those few minutes the energy is more like a carnival than a festival. Band leader Femi Koleoso calls out “I know we know how to skank!” as trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi blares out the iconic melody of Egypt’s vocal, marking the high point of the day.

Masego was one of the biggest draws of the festival; he gives an enjoyable if ever-so-slightly underwhelming performance. Although clearly enjoying himself on stage, that feeling didn’t entirely transmit to the audience.

NxWorries bringing their lo-fi soul synergy to South London is a joy in itself. Able to lean on the flagship hits of their 2016 cult classic album ‘Yes Lawd‘, the crowd lapped up Anderson .Paak’s near CD quality renditions of cuts like ‘Suede’ and ‘Link Up’. There were also spells where .Paak, donned in all black, stepped back to let Knx steer the ship from his elevated station of his DJ decks  – while enjoyable enough, these moments functioned more as punctuation points between the old and new NxWorries cuts. Recent drops from the duo ‘Daydreaming’ and ‘Where I Go’ are easy to sing along to, ‘lighters in the sky’ type joints, they’re yet to be cherished in the way of ‘Link Up’, and it showed somewhat. Nonetheless, the California duo’s set was a fitting way to bring a great day in the South London sun to a close. 

Words: Dwayne Wilks

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