Review by Cee Smith
An expanding collective of talented musicians and a big box of percussion for the audience to get involved, The Well Happy band takes on a different sound and guise depending on the gig.
But above all is their promotion of a well happy life.
The band is one facet of the business Alaine Wells and Janine Duffy set up together. They promote holistic therapies including Janine’s Laughter Yoga, workshops, music tuition and play sessions for adults and children. They work with schools, businesses and local community projects driven by their genuine infectious style.
They are a brand pushing a pretty basic message: look after yourself and you will feel happier. Take part and laugh and you will feel better.
I met Alaine outside a gig a couple years ago. To put it lightly I was in a bit of a mess and drinking too much. We talked awhile before she put her hand on my shoulder and said ‘come to my next gig. I will make you Well Happy.’
And I remember thinking aye, aye.
But I still went.
Every passing gig or festival I would do my best to catch them. To do what I had always done at gigs. Get up the front and dance til I couldn’t stand up. And then dance some more. Their songs made me laugh. I soaked up their high energies even at their more exhausted, impromptu moments. It was a musical reminder to keep going through the rough times.
Positive, upbeat, at times daft but always heartfelt from an ode to a well-loved motorhome to the Balkan-esque jig of Reiki, their debut album: The Little Album of Happiness is well, happy.
All of this might seem rather simplistic or childish. And it is, if you resist it.
Feeling happier alone might not cure you of all your problems, but it’s a vital start to any recovery even if it’s simply a hard day.
I’ve been reading Anne Gillard Shearer’s ‘Love, Drugs and any other city like Glasgow’ lately and been taken by her urgent realisations about the state of our health. Shearer had been a local government councillor for 17 years and left to start a stress relief centre in the city. Written in 1987, her book reads like the result of years ignored in her position concerning her firm and unshakeable belief that it was Glasgow’s poor breathing habits that was at the heart of the ‘Glasgow Effect’, our high risk of heart disease, our addictions and our attitude to life. She argues passionately that this failure to breathe was caused by an environment of fear and tension and a society which repressed its symptoms and continued to treat the impossible problems.
When I first started smoking, I remember my mother telling me it wasn’t the cigarette I really wanted. It was because I wasn’t breathing properly.
I smoked when I was stressed. Then I was stressed all the time because I am addicted.
We have the power to take the first step to feeling healthier. Even if it’s shaking a maraca half-heartedly while a loud yellow band crowd a tiny stage in a pub or a field somewhere. If we breathe, we’ll smile. We might even feel happier.
The last time I saw them perform live I, with the rest of the audience, was presented with a small glass marble with a smiley face on it. I kept a hold of it in my pocket for a few weeks until I passed it on to a young man left miserable at an empty taxi rank one night. He was a bit of a mess and been drinking too much. I listened to his stories until a car pulled up to take him home and dropped it into his hand.
For a moment looking at a stone with a smiley face on it and realising it was just a stone with a smiley face drawn on it, one eye already chipped off under my nail, I tell you he looked well happy.
And so did I.
You can order The Well Happy Band’s debut album The Little Album of Happiness here: https://thewellhappyband.bandcamp.com/releases Keep up with the band’s activities and ethos here: http://wellhappy.scot/
Cee Smith is an author and performance poet based in Glasgow. Her book Grief is available from Gallus Pallas: http://ceesmithpoetry.bigcartel.com/product/grief