Yikes! Every country has its big summer outdoor festival circuit, and Scotland is no exception; for twenty years, the place to be was T in The Park, an annual rain-soaked, mud-encrusted musical cash-cow frolic in the Central Belt. T in the Park usually sold out immediately on announcement, and was something of a coming-of-age moment for generations who got their first taste of lying face down in a patch of wet grass by a chemical toilet feeling that nobody in the world was having a better time than them at that specific moment. Festival experiences vary, but for every tale of transcendance via music, there’s usually at least five stories about having to take a squat-dump in a tub of melted ice-cream while a friend held your jacket at the right angle to conceal you from a queue of angry Razorlight fans waiting for drinks tokens.
The idea of capturing this kind spectacle on film might seem like a good one, and David Mackenzie set out to nail it for posterity with his feature film You Instead. Mixing in actualities with fiction spawned vital movies like Medium Cool, but with few significant figures participating, You Instead feels like something of a pauper at the feast. Scottish actors seem to be in short supply, so Luke Treadway plays Adam from a fictional band called The Make, and Natalia Tena plays Morello, the lead singer of a band called The Dirty Pink. They’re two young people who get to know each other in a hurry when they’re accidentally handcuffed together by a preacher named Justice. With the entire site unable to provide anything as esoteric as a standard set of bolt-cutters to release them, Adam and Morello are forced experience the highs and lows of the festival together, and a growing relationship is their reward for staying the course…
Filmed at the 2011 event, You Instead falls victim to awful weather conditions; most of the film is shot in terrible light, with cloud cover and rain making an event that looked pretty dismal in reality look like Hades incarnate on film. Brief glimpses of The Proclaimers do little to electrify the mood, the dance-minded Slam tent in particularly just looks awful by stuttering strobe-lights, and the characterisations and plotting of this semi-improvised film could best be described as sloppy.‘What’s on the main stage?’ ‘Kasabian’. ‘Well, why are you walking towards it then?’ is the one sliver of dialogue that nails the laconic, caustic charm of the actual T in the Park event; otherwise we’re slung in the dungeon of low comedy with improvided lines like the hot-dog vendor approached with ‘Can I have your biggest sausage?’
Without must Scottish content, we’re left with some very 2011 ruminations on the impact of social media (‘Twitter is SO much better than Facebook!’ ), the briefest glimpses of various bands and performers (Biffy Clyro, Paloma Faith) and a general sense of squelching desperation. You Instead was barely seen on release, and quickly forgotten about as a huge waste of public money; catching it in 2023 is like a vent from hell opening up behind you, wasting the stale air of the site’s famously unsanitary P*sh Alley back into your unsuspecting nostrils. Mackenzie bounced back with the career high of the excellent Hell and High Water, and would probably prefer to forget that any of this ever happened, which probably goes for most of the soggy participants here.