Planning on hitting Junction 2 this year? Of course you are! In four short years, J2 has established itself as the UK’s premier techno festival. Expanding for the first time since year two, J2 is extending to two-days in 2019, with Friday’s music policy rotating around the full spectrum of underground house music. Meanwhile, Saturday remains close to its core values. The venue, Boston Manor Park, with its stark, contrasting features - both man-made and natural - help contribute to the sense of escapism and discovery. Let us guide you through the brand-new site layout. A weekend of wonder is in store.
Having disembarked at Boston Manor tube it’s a simple case of following the trickling flow of people all the way to the gates. After passing through security, you’ll be sided by token stalls, bars and toilets. Instead of following a yellow brick road, you find yourself walking over wood chip under foot. Where does the trail lead? Keeping your nose straight, you’ll find yourself heading downhill until you reach a stream. Tranquil and serene, you’d be forgiven for wondering whether this is the location of a rave? Fear not. Navigating the floating crossing, once over you only need to breach the brow of the hill before an awesome sight awaits: below the motorway flyover and unbeknownst to ignorant drivers passing overhead, an isle surrounded by water is throbbing with carefree ravers. You’re reached The Bridge. You’ll know this will probably be your last stop, but intrigue has made it your first destination as well.
Dust kicked up forming clouds and tonnes of revellers going crazy under the M4. Like a dystopic wasteland, it seems not of this world. You steal yourself for not having heard the music until now, but the depression provides natural soundproofing. No wonder the organisers have achieved the impossible, in ramping the volume up at an outdoor UK festival. Fellow attendees stomp and beat their chest like it’s the final days of humanity. Life affirming stuff. Such is its imposing majesty, it’s hard to believe that this isn’t even the “main stage” anymore.
Soon it’s time to move on and explore the rest of the site. Trudging back up the hill, you will veer off to the right and into the lower meadow. It’s here any returning fans will notice the first of several reconfigurations. The Hex, previously located in the lower meadow, has been given a new location and, seemingly, a healthy dose of steroids. The rigid hexagonal rig remains, but the stage towers higher than past editions. Sections of the dancefloor are now covered, whilst viewing platforms on either side of the arena provide advantageous look out points. Maybe it’s the new position or the fact that the stage has been partially covered or because the speaker system has been beefed to L’Acoustic’s market-leading K2 specification, but the sound is fine-tuned. Louder and crisper.
Next stop is the lower meadow, where two of the smaller stages lie. More modest, they be. But each is unique and totally different to the others. The Stretch’s canvas exterior is minimalist chic. It could be imported from mainland Europe, by a continental fashion house. In terms of line-up, it’s equally as elegant. Under the sleek, fabric arches, an idiosyncratic sonic field consumes the space. A place for those with discerning tastes to while away the afternoon’s activities.
By comparison, The Warehouse is bleak, gothic and arguably a sightsore from the outside. Like a piece of industrial London has been dumped in a field. But you should never judge a book by its cover, as the saying goes. Aesthetics are not the selling point here. In fact, you could almost say that by removing the sense of sight, you heighten the other senses - and this is what The Warehouse achieves. Not only a nostalgic nod to London’s past rave heritage, but a pitch-black, almost subterranean space, designed for the audiophile in mind. A brand-new mezzanine level will allow visitors to overlook the dancefloor below. Organisers have even installed a bar, toilet facilities and a connected smoking area for 2019, meaning if you’re so inclined, you need not leave until the last kick drum has rung out. Additional effects and lighting will provide a little more illumination that previous years, but this is still very much a case of getting lost in the dark and lost in the music.
Tearing ourselves away from the bunker, there’s just one final stage left to visit - and it involves channeling our inner intrepid explorer. It’s time to get back to nature. And that means rummaging in the thicket by the bird twitcher’s hut. Here, shielded by the canopy of The Woods and hidden away from the prying eyes of the outer world, you can elope with the music amid like-minded individuals. The scent of earth fills your nostrils, as an electronic 4/4 beat and wobbly bassline reverberates in your ear. Strangers who share your world outlook, your taste in music and a lust for losing yourself in the open air become more familiar, until they aren’t considered strangers anymore. Misunderstood by society, but, together, accepted in this cosy sanctuary. It’s around these parts that those with a thirst for craft beer and exquisite gin cocktails may gravitate.
By now, darkness has fallen. As Boston Manor Park succumbs to nightfall, it’s time to come full-circle and return to The Bridge, only a short hop away. Now shrouded in the shade of the night, state of the art lighting and seek-and-destroy lasers will penetrate the mist as the crowd raise their arms to the drop, giving the air of a UFO abduction. Festival ambassador, Adam Beyer, will take you through to the denouement, with his steely, stripped-back take on techno. A fitting soundtrack to close-out the most extraterrestrial of festival sites.