Teenage dreams are hard to beat, but ultimately leave you in pain

Graeme 'Yer Man' Cousins
Graeme 'Yer Man' Cousins

Upon leaving the Mandela Hall on Saturday night I felt both very old and very young.

Very young because I’d just watched my favourite band of all time perform my favourite album of all time in its entirety.

The event I was attending was the NI Music Prize headlined by Therapy? who were being inducted into the hall of fame. 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of their legendary Troublegum album so they obliged by playing it from start to finish.

The first time I saw Therapy? coincided with the release of that same album. It was in the Ulster Hall in 1994 and as a wide-eyed teenager I threw the full exuberance of my youth into the occasion. I took part in head banging, moshing, pogoing and crowd surfing as well as that thing you do with your hand so it looks like devil horns - the full gamut of heavy metal posturing.

I felt like that same teenager again on Saturday night as I thrashed around the moshpit revelling in the race, religion and social class transcending camaraderie, the outpouring of aggression, and the vinegar-like musk of big, sweaty, hairy men in dark, heavy clothing.

As soon as the gig was over was when I started feeling very old. When we went to the adjoining bar in the students union what struck me immediately was that the music was too loud.

I realise the irony, having emerged from a heavy metal concert then complaining the music elsewhere was too loud. Still, for me a bar is a place for conversation, not having to communicate via hand signals.

I felt older still when a girl tapped me on the shoulder and said something to me. I couldn’t hear a word of it. My ears were still ringing from the concert.

She tried again, shouting this time, and still I couldn’t hear her. I gestured for her to bellow directly into my earhole and she did so, reminding me that I had my anorak tied round my waist.

That’s right, I’d worn an anorak to a heavy metal gig. What of it? The weather outside was very changeable. Surely I couldn’t be the only person in Belfast with the sense, both common and fashion, to wear an anorak. It’s lightweight, wind and waterproof and it has a hood. What more could you want from a coat?

The young girl who reminded me of the skirt-like presence of the anorak around my waist shouted it in the nicest possible way, but it was obvious she was using it as an opportunity to impress her friends by poking fun at the old, bald man in the student bar.

Her plan backfired because rather than rise to her bait I simply played up the old man stereotype by continuing to pretend to be hard of hearing until she gave up and went away.

The morning after the gig I felt even older. I had pains and aches all over from the moshpit and was grateful that Karen got up with the kids and gave me a lie in to nurse my wounds.

But there’s always someone worse off than yourself. Spare a thought for my old friend and devoted Therapy? fan Chris McWilliams. Because of an age-related injury (having a bad back), he wasn’t able to join the moshpit so he had to watch from afar on Saturday night.

Instead of going to Therapy? concerts in future I’ve recommended he seeks therapy of a different nature... physiotherapy.

And while he’s at it he should invest in a decent anorak.