On the 21st and 22nd of July, Junction 2 made a triumphant return to their inaugural home of Boston Manor Park. After three consecutive years of cancellations, the festival brought 30,000 revellers to West London, who were treated to a stacked line up that included some of dance music’s most famous names. During the unfortunate years the event couldn’t go ahead, a fresh vision on the festival’s visual identity had been decided, as this edition saw three brand new stages, in the form of Blackout, Grid, and Quad, which elevated their programming to new heights.
I attended Junction 2’s last edition in 2019, which was a stand out in that Summer’s festival season and I returned with high expectations. Last year would have seen them leave Boston Manor Park, venturing instead to Trent Country Park in North London, waving goodbye to their symbolic Bridge stage in the process. Perhaps in a bizarre twist of fate, that event was cancelled just a week prior, and in hindsight, it would have been hard to imagine the festival without thousands of ravers dancing away underneath the M4 motorway. It makes for an utterly unique experience and the imagery of the stage dominates social media during and after the event.
The festival separated the line up by electronic genres – Friday saw electro, house and disco take the reigns, with the likes of Dixon, Jeff Mills and Mall Grab shining. Whilst a rain beleaguered Saturday played host to the darker sounds of techno and EBM which saw Adam Beyer, Charlotte De Witte and Sama’ Abdulhadi bring the heat. Playing host to four stages, dancers were never left wanting, with each one offering something different. However, with such a stacked lineup, there was understandable frustration at the amount of clashes between the headline acts which caused many to have to choose between some of their favourite DJ’s.
Of the new stage editions, Blackout stood out for its immersive, futuristic concept. Designed by Japanese artist Manami Sakamoto, from the moment I entered through a tunnel like entrance, I was transfixed by the light installation which spanned 120 metres, and served as a psychedelic backdrop to the artists playing the stage. I.Jordan shined on the Saturday with a trance inspired set, as did DJ Stingray 313 B2B Objekt, who closed the stage later in the evening, the duo spanned breakbeat, electro and techno in what was a raucous set. Dax J closed the Sunday, with a high-intensity techno set that electrified the crowd and served as a fitting end to the stage.
The Grid served as the proverbial main stage and although at first glance it lacked the eye-catching designs of the other stages, it came to life at night with a stunning array of lights from both the stage and in the crowd. Once the sun went down for Underworld’s live set, the stage production added to a sizzling atmosphere. The iconic duo took the crowd on a journey through their hits, from ‘Cowgirl’ to ‘Two Months Off’, in a display that reminded everyone just how influential they’ve been to the direction dance music has taken since the 90s. They left their beloved track ‘Born Slippy’ until the end, building suspense until an emotional explosion followed. Underworld are undoubtedly an electronic act to see at least once before they stop touring.
However, it was The Bridge stage that stole the show across both days. On Saturday, over the course of two hours, Helena Hauff and Ben UFO merged their opposing styles to create an unpredictable journey across the electronic spectrum. Whereas on the Sunday, Astra Club, the new project from Carlita and DJ Tennis, served up a feel good set filled with classics. Highlights were renditions of Crystal Waters’ ‘Gypsy Woman’ and Daft Punk’s ‘One More Time’. Nina Kraviz followed with an emphatic techno set that encapsulated thousands, whilst the Russian DJ brought her electric set to a close with her single ‘Bailando’.
It’s hard to imagine the pressure the team behind Junction 2 would have been under in recent years. Financially, the implications of cancelling three successive years would have been agonising. However, to return and live up to the growing expectations from attendees would have been another thought – after all, many of those attending this year would undoubtedly have had tickets last year. So to have witnessed the progress Junction 2 has made since 2019 was a sight to behold. Everything was elevated this year – from production to the artist’s on the lineup. We can only hope the cloud of bad luck has now passed and we’ll keep an eye out for what the festival has in store for next year.