Rock & Roe: students hold concert supporting reproductive rights

The first annual Rock & Roe: A Planned Parenthood Benefit Concert took place this past Sat., Nov. 16 in Foss. The concert, a joint effort between Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGA) and the Colby Music Incubator (CMI), brought student musicians to the stage to raise money for Planned Parenthood New England in light of Maine’s restricted access to abortion services. 

“So much of [Maine’s reproductive healthcare legislation] has been blocked or stalled,” PPGA Executive Board member Rachel Powers `21 yelled into the microphone between sets at the concert. “There are only three places in the entire state where you can legally get an abortion. That’s not enough and we have to do better!”

Rock & Roe was the result of several months work by PPGA and CMI. Ultimately, seven student bands donated their time for the night: Topsy, Free Chips, After Hours, Kaleido, Road Soda, Fun Police, Basement Picnic, and solo act Anikka Schliesmann `21. According to CMI co-president and Topsy singer Sam Guenther `21, it was a great way to introduce some lesser-known student bands to the Colby population.

“Other shows like Halloweekend and Doghead usually only have room for so many,” Guenther said in an interview with the Echo. “A lot of newer bands don’t get their start until they start doing stuff on their own, and this was a great way for newer bands like Basement Picnic and Kaleido and Fun Police to show what they’ve got. It was great for me to see what’s out there, and it was great for Colby students to see that too.” 

Guenther claimed that there was a level of enthusiasm for the Rock & Roe concert that he hadn’t seen previously in his time as CMI co-president. 

“So many people showed up early. Usually, it takes about 40 minutes for people to really start coming through the doors and we had at least 25, 30 people when the first band went on and it was great to get that crowd size and have it stay consistent.”

The crowd was certainly enthusiastic. At several points, a dance circle formed, and unsuspecting students were pushed in and forced to dance for the cheering Colby students. One band started a chant halfway through their set to celebrate the work Powers did on the concert, encouraging the audience to scream her name as she sheepishly made her way through the crowd. 

“It was stressful, it was a lot of work,” Powers said of the planning process in an interview with the Echo. “But our Executive Board is so passionate and worked really hard the whole time so I think it went well.”

While tickets to Rock & Roe were technically free, there was a suggested donation of $10-15 per person. PPGA supplemented this with a GoFundMe, which as of publication has 15 donors and raised $808 of their $1,000 goal. PPGA also sold t-shirts and stickers printed with the Rock & Roe logo in the Spa in the days leading up to the concert as well as at the door. 

“Seeing people pay to get in was amazing,” Guenther said. “The CMI’s dream last year was to get to the point where we could charge $2 for a show, so to get to a point where people are spending $10, $15, buying t-shirts, Venmo-ing what they could. That was awesome to see both for Planned Parenthood and for the demand for music here.”

“I thought it was really cool to see how many people came out to support Planned Parenthood,” Anjalee Rutah `21 said, who attended the concert and bought a t-shirt. “It’s such a great cause and it was great being among people who are passionate about Planned Parenthood and reproductive services.”

The concert was a bigger hit with Colby students than PPGA had ever imagined. While they don’t have a final total on the amount of money raised, PPGA Executive Board member Ketty Stinson `21 described the event as “an incredible success.”

“Tons of Colby students came out for the event,” said Stinson in an interview with the Echo. “All of the student bands and CMI leaders volunteered their time to perform for this cause, which we are so grateful for. Hopefully this can be the start of a new tradition because we want to do everything in our power to ensure that people can access safe and legal abortion if and when they need to.”

Powers agreed with Stinson, claiming After Hours’ performance in particular was a peak of the night.

“My favorite part was hearing the guitar solos in After Hours’ Grateful Dead set,” Powers said. “That was really awesome. There are so many talented student artists on this campus and that moment just really reminded me how lucky we are.”

Given this year’s success, PPGA and CMI are already thinking about the next Rock & Roe concert. Next year, they hope to hold the concert earlier and raise even more money and awareness for Planned Parenthood New England and its services. 

“The hope is to do one before the election to raise more awareness beforehand and get more money,” Guenther said of their tentative plans. “Scheduling that is always tricky because Halloweekend is a thing we always do, but even earlier in the year is ideal.”

Considering the recent tensions surrounding Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights under President Trump, who ran his 2016 campaign promising to defund Planned Parenthood and later attempted to do so through his 2018 Title X gag rule, scheduling the next Rock & Roe concert before the 2020 elections is particularly urgent for PPGA. While the members of PPGA have complex opinions on the state of reproductive rights under Trump, Powers perhaps summed up best what they are fighting for in three simple words: “Reproductive justice, baby!”