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How a Courteeners gig helped me overcome my mental health problems

Neil Renton reveals how a Courteeners gig in Edinburgh's Princes' Street Gardens led to him overcoming his mental health problems.


I knew Princes Street Gardens like the back of my trembling hand.

There was a section near Waverley Train Station that used to have a putting green at the bottom of the slope. Then there was the larger part with a play park and a band camp in the middle.

I also knew my way about concerts. I’d survived the front of the infamous Oasis show at Irvine Beach. I’d also made it out alive of the ransacked beer queue on the Friday night at the Stone Roses' Heaton Park comeback.

Yet there I was. Sitting by myself in one of Edinburgh’s most picturesque settings on the eve of a Courteeners concert. I was wishing the ground would swallow me up whole so I didn’t have to go.

The gig came at a bad time for me. I had been suffering from bad mental health at that point. I couldn’t blame Liam Fray and the boys for coinciding a show in the midst of my breakdown. They didn’t know. To be honest as a result of me keeping it to myself, no one did.

I was struggling with sweat induced panic attacks. It was the type that had me jumping at the smallest of movements and the quietest of sounds. How was I going to make it through an outdoor concert with drunk folk bumping into me while they burst their lungs out singing?

So I took it upon myself to go down before the gig and sit on a bench. I visualised what would be happening, where I’d be standing, how close I’d be to any exists in the event of an emergency. All while the roadies ploughed through a soundcheck.

As they did, so it hit me. Aftershow.

It might have been a rough and ready version of the opening track of The Courteeners debut album St Jude. It managed to take me away from my staggered breathing and transport me to where I wanted to be. In amongst a crowd of like-minded music lovers having the time of their lives.

I returned to the venue with my wife who stuck by me like the rock she is. I might have felt out of place with the barely dressed girls and the barely-there lads setting off flares.

I might have stuck to a measly couple of plastic pints of lager. I might have asked to stay anchored to a spot away from the madness. But I felt good. I felt like I was back.

As we drifted up the cobbled path to head home, I realised the night had been perfect apart from one thing. The band never got round to playing Aftershow.

There’s always the next time.


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