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Cross The Tracks 2023 @ Brockwell Park

The sun is shining, the vibes are euphoric and your favourite funk, soul and alternative artists are gracing the stage from the early hours of the afternoon till dusk; Kelis, Ezra Collective, Masego and Nxworries to name a few. Though it wasn’t Cross The Tracks’ debut festival, this time felt different – bigger headline acts, more promotion and a larger budget made the festival feel like it was its reintroduction.

a crowd of people in front of a stage for Cross the Tracks

From start to finish the atmosphere was near-perfect, with all festival-goers seemingly determined to enjoy their favourite artists who travelled across The Atlantic, and to soak up the UK sun that only ever shines intermittently. Cross The Tracks was seemingly organised, event-goers weren’t met with the usual lengthy toilet, food and bar queues that very often plague other festivals.

five boys in a line in front of poster board

As you would expect with such a line up, the performances were outstanding. Ezra Collective’s set transported us between funky house, Latin American-esque music and their church roots. Kelis’ set was as eccentric and colourful as the hair she sported during her Caught Out There era. Masego and his sax were sensational as always, and rising stars like Bina and Wesley Joseph had amazing crowd control.

The biggest let down was ironically the show’s biggest headliner and closing act, Nxworries. When Anderson .Paak appeared without a drum kit, we knew we weren’t getting the clattering intro from Come Down. .Paak wore an outfit that concealed him to the point of him only being distinguishable by his smooth voice and flamboyant dance moves. He often disappeared on stage and it felt that him and Knxwledge were just playing songs they wanted to hear. The only redeeming part was them playing Where I Go and Suede.

Anderson Paak with his arm raised in the air on a stage

Prams left tracks in the grass, millennials skank to Ezra Collective’s electric set – which included a rendition of Egypt – In The Morning-, lovers sway to Masego’s sensual saxophone and middle-aged women are transported back to their youth as Kelis croons “Papa I’m a Millionaire”.

Cross the Tracks is truly a cross-generational festival. It’s rare to feel that level of inclusivity across age, gender and ability. Every act on the main stage had a BSL interpreter. It’s something I’ve never seen done before, but certainly something that should be the norm at festivals.

Cross The Tracks was much more than just a festival, it was an experience. The heart of Brockwell Park was lined with independent black business stalls selling everything from hand-made jewellery, books encouraging children to embrace their naturally kinky, coily hair, to colourful crocheted-clothing. It was something out of a perfectly-scripted film. As the crowds left the festival, the lights from the swing ride and ferris wheel lit up the sky, Nxworries played us out.


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