Afterthoughts: Junction 2

Since the inception of Junction 2 (J2) three years ago, it has quickly risen to become one of the top 3 one-day festivals in London; big line-ups, out-of-the box stages, deep and clear sound systems, plus a vibe and energy that can compete with Notting Hill carnival. All of these factors contribute to one of the best one-day festivals you’ll experience in the world!

Located underneath Junction 2 of the M4, the site offers harsh concrete structures, a wonky warehouse, which I’m told was the brain child of J2 production manager, Loz Poulton (he has all the best ideas, annoyingly!), and an open-air wooden stage with a Secret Garden Party feel to it. The J2 music policy is a mix of thumping techno and deep house with a melodic sound. They don’t venture too much into the unfamiliar, but change the line-up just enough each year to keep things fresh; you can definitely expect a certain vibe when attending.

I’m told that LWE found the location through a combination of factors – Paul (one of the LWE founders) had his daughter’s 3rd birthday there as well as attending a few illegal raves over the years, whilst for Alice (also an LWE founder), it was somewhere she drove past several times a week travelling from London back to home of Dorset. When quizzed as to whether any special conditions were imposed by the council, I was told “we just applied for a licence, we didn’t have to agree any ‘conditions’ as such – you just apply for what you think is reasonable and then wait for any objections from residents or local ‘stakeholders’, speak to your licensing officer and see what they say. It’s been a pleasure working alongside Hounslow council. They have been very fair to us over the last three years.”

When I first rocked up in 2016, I had not seen a festival quite like it. It was a tad confusing, but once you worked your way around, things started to make a bit more sense. The big hitters that year were Scuba (in the warehouse) and the ‘Innervisions’ marathon, which consisted of Mano Le Tough, Âme, and Dixon. The following year, we had big expectations, getting a big crew together, ready for chapter two. We arrived late and went straight to the Drumcode stage to welcome ‘Tale of Us’ to Junction 2 for the first time, ending the night with Maceo Plex on the open stage, the weather complimenting the day to perfection.

Fast forward to 2018 and the streets of Hounslow were flooded with festival goers who all seemed ready for the big day ahead. Arriving on site, the queue was big, but moved swiftly; less than half an hour from arriving to getting inside the festival. Like the majority of festivals, they have adopted a ticketing system, so we entered another queue – another half an hour in and we have our tokens; off to the bar for, you guessed it, another queue! Although festivals have come a long way, I still strongly think this is a system that must be improved as it took over an hour before we could decide how to open our J2 account for 2018. We fled to the open-air Sonus arena to catch the last half an hour of ‘Mind Against’. These guys always seem to thrive in the open-air, and this was no exception. Mixing the good weather with upbeat and dark techno made the perfect contrast. Our only regret being that we weren’t able to experience the whole set from the beginning.

After Mind Against we went over to the warehouse to see ‘Scuba’ aka SCB. The contrast of going from a massive open-air arena, to a dark tent that backs on to a warehouse is always a big J2 highlight for me. As I didn’t make it to the space the year before, the first thing I noticed was the change in stage location. We hustle to the front, and as per usual, SCB is shutting it down. We spent the whole set there, as we couldn’t bear to leave; it was hot and intimate, although the sound system could have been better compared to the other J2 stages. As SCB brought his set to a close, we stumbled out of the warehouse to be met by bright sunshine and plenty of pink faces, heading next door to the ‘Innervisions’ tent. Dixon and Âme had already started their marathon, and were in the “take it to Africa” segment, as I like to call it, playing tribal sounds with a deep bass line and African riffs. This has become the norm for the two Innervisions heads and it seems to work well. They really created a top notch party vibe here, but as 6pm approached, we opted to head back to the Sonus open-air stage to see Tale of Us add another chapter to their J2 book for the second consecutive year. Their set (like from ‘Mind Against’) was a great contrast of moody techno in the sunshine. As always, Tale of Us demanded energy from every single member of the crowd; the sound system felt like it had become more powerful than a couple of hours before, and I could feel my chest vibrating in tune with the tremendous bassline. This immediately made me forget about the woeful set up inside the warehouse, and be fully gripped by J2.

As the night started to draw to an end, my group of friends were left with the decision of who to finish up with. There was the mammoth set featuring Dixon b2b with Âme at The Pavilion, Len Faki in the Warehouse, or Carl Cox b2b with Adam Bayer on the Bridge. As we were with a few Junction virgins, we ventured to the Bridge stage to soak up some atmosphere and vibes. The main stage at Junction 2 never disappoints; the structure alone demands respect. The walk to the main stage is pretty unique in itself; immediately you see a rather intimidating sea of people as you’re walking down the hill and across the river to arrive at your destination. In the middle of a packed main stage as Carl Cox and Adam Bayer were chucking it about – the perfect place to be as you got thumping sounds and a spectacular light show.

We decided to make the pilgrimage back to Âme & Dixon. Re-entering the tent felt like going back to a mates after a long night on the town. We were greeted with pink, blue, orange and purple lights, which made the gloomy lurking smoke seem edible and provided a perfect balance to the thumping dirty disco tracks. Although I was in a packed tent, the set felt intimate with enough space for everyone to get fully involved. When the rare opportunity arose and the smoke cleared, you could see Dixon and Âme having their own party behind the decks, giving spectators more encouragement to do the same. The last couple of hours were truly a journey not only through music, but light and art, with all three aspects merging together to create more than just a set. It’s no surprise that these guys have topped the (now deceased) RA charts. When they get approached to do a six-hour set, they don’t just simply take this as a chance to dust off their record crates, but see it as an opportunity to truly embed you into their minds and creative processes, experiencing something brand new and special. I struggle to think that this could ever be replicated again!

The weather held up, big names delivered, and the service was great. Junction 2 continues to do the simple things very well, which is such a big component to a successful system! The location allows for a truly memorable day, while sounds system continue to impress. When I asked the curators of J2 what’s next, they responded “a few forays into stages and festivals abroad… we are at Sonus in Croatia in August and then Oasis in Morocco in September. We are hosting the main stage with an absolutely massive line up.” I really hope they continue to grow on the hugely successful past 3 years and don’t enter into the decline that has beset so many other London festivals. In JUNCTION/DRUMCODE/LWE WE TRUST!! Bring on J219!!

Leaving Junction, we headed across the city to attend the official after party, which had a Grade A line-up. With J2 being tucked away in west London, the journey always feels a tad daunting, but with the hope of a great end to an amazing day, optimism was high. It was a big night and line up even for Fabric. We were met with massive queues going around the corner and to the other side of the street.

As we entered one of London’s most prestigious electronic music venues we joined Tale of Us for the second time of the day. These guys understand the room and how to make it work in there. Tonight was no exception. They started their set with an unreleased track with additional Vaal vocals. If Junction 2 was a statement journey set, this was a no bull shit, get knees deep and sweat your bollocks off set. I loved it. Dropping a mix of unreleased and familiar tracks, the 3 hours flew by, with energy levels back at a maximum. Innervisions owned the day, so my thought was, can Âme deliver as a solo act? And can he do it again? The answer is YES. Like Tale of Us, instead of doing another statement journey set, Âme’s goal was to get people dancing!

Festival after parties can be a bit of a taboo. Am I going to make it? Will they let me in? But this night has restored my faith that the answer to both those questions is YES. If the music and event runs smoothly, the night and day is your oyster!

Hats off to Fabric for delivering a great night. The security felt friendly and actually on your side, which was a lovely change. Room 1 didn’t disappoint, I just wish I clawed myself away to witness Len Faki in room 2. All I can ask is bring him back. Fabric: keep pushing boundaries with amazing line-ups.

Words: Nick Wind

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