The opportunity to see Chaka Khan live does not come around every day – so I was on board to attend Cross The Tracks festival in Brockwell Park.
Nobody to go with? No problem. I was excited enough at the prospect of seeing a hero of my parents’ generation (as well as some amazing artists from my own), and duly headed from Walthamstow to Brixton.
The inaugural Cross The Tracks did not disappoint. There was a tangible feeling of joy on the day, with groups of friends dancing together, smiles plastered across their faces. At times, it felt like an open-air Spitalfields Market with a soundtrack; there was lots to do across the site besides the music, which took place across five stages. There were food outlets from across the world, afro-centric book and jewellery stalls, vintage sportswear, and clothing on sale in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
And for the music; to date I’d had little experience of London’s burgeoning neo jazz and soul scene. Would I “get” what was being presented? Any expectations I had of an air of pretension were quickly erased upon hearing the soothing tones of Poppy Adjudha. With thought provoking lyrics, her latest offering ‘Devil’s Juice’ was a highlight, her soulful vocal illuminating the Ghost Notes Rail Yard stage.
Lava La Rue’s fiery sing-song trap was also a highlight, and the west Londoner’s youthful bounce lent a healthy rage to proceedings. Her confident stage presence quickly got the crowd jumping, and ‘MOSCHINO IN 83’ was one of the more emotional tunes of her performance.
Cross The Tracks was a showcase of music, new and old, from the Black diaspora, with the contemporary sounds of the likes of La Rue offset by the dubby roots reggae from the likes of DJ duo Channel One and Dawn Penn of ‘You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)’ fame. This was also reflected in the crowd; there were families with babies and groups of middle aged ravers, as well as the usual cohort of mid-twenties hipsters.
The Comet Is Coming attracted one of the biggest crowds of the day. Their haunting, chaotic synths were like a real life space invasion, lending credence to the band’s name. In the opening bars of ‘Unity’, there was mention of their music being a tool to inspire togetherness, and the mesmeric performances from the band members, comprised of Shabaka Hutchings, Dan Leavers and Max Hallett, went some way to ensuring that the audience would take stock. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard live; instantly captivating and surprisingly rhythmic. I was sold.
And, of course, Chaka Khan’s headline set brought all the audience acclaim that I’d expected. It’s a shame she didn’t perform any tracks from her latest album, Hello Happiness, as the funky ‘Like Sugar’ would have amped up the atmosphere. However, with full band in tow, she went on to perform a set of classics, cementing her superstar status, closing out the festival with ‘Ain’t Nobody’.