Girls ROCK!

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: September 16, 2021 5:00 a.m.

Sunset Embassy (formerly Abrupt Dystopia) in front of the Girls Rock Regina stage. (L to r): Shayna Stock, Charity Marsh, Jori Cachene, Collette Parks, and Sophie Littlechief-Carteri.
Sunset Embassy (formerly Abrupt Dystopia) in front of the Girls Rock Regina stage. (L to r): Shayna Stock, Charity Marsh, Jori Cachene, Collette Parks, and Sophie Littlechief-Carteri. Photo: Jael Bartnik

Girls rock…obviously. And, according to a new documentary directed and produced by Dr. Charity Marsh, professor of creative technologies in the Faculty of Media, Art and Performance at the University of Regina, they’re changing the Regina music scene.

Started in Portland, Oregon in 2001 as Portland’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, Girls Rock is an inclusive musical community that has now expanded around the globe, including to the Queen City. 

Girls Rock Regina (GRR) is a volunteer-based organisation created to empowers girls, women, non-binary, Two-Spirit, and gender-expansive youth and adults through creating and performing music.  With the help of professional musicians, in the space of a week or weekend, campers form bands based on instruments they want to learn–drums, keyboard, bass, guitar, or vocals. They are then taught how to play several chords, after which they create a song that they perform in front of a live audience.

Everyone can now watch a version of the Girls Rock Regina story in a 30-minute documentary called I'm Gonna Play Loud: Girls Rock Regina & the Ripple Effect, which will have its Regina premiere at Queer City Cinema and Performatorium on September 16, 2021.

Marsh says previous research on Girls Rock camps, and other similar grassroots initiatives, often focus on how the camps serve and empower youth, while her documentary shifts gears to focus on the adult campers and the adult women and non-binary people who support the camps in various roles.

“Culminating from three years of research and interviews with the adult crew and campers of Girls Rock Regina, this documentary illuminates some of the many challenges that women and non-binary musicians face within Regina’s music scenes–including a lack of representation across venues, a lack of role models, male-dominated jam nights and open mics, ongoing sexual objectification, and acts of sexism, as well as ageist attitudes against women–and how their experiences with GRR have challenged them to demand that local music scenes shift in tangible ways,” says Marsh, who adds that after working with GRR, many of the participants she interviewed spoke about feeling more confident to explicitly call out sexism, take up space by turning up their amps at band practices, and demanding more inclusive line-ups at shows.

(L to r) Sophie Littlechief-Carteri, Jori Cachene
and Shayna Stock of Sunset Ebassy performing
at the Regina Folk Festival in 2019. Photo: Still
from the documentary I'm Gonna Play Loud

The band that Marsh played in at the camp was so inspired they continue to write, record, and perform original songs.

“Our band, Sunset Embassy (formerly known as Abrupt Dystopia), which includes queer women, Indigenous women, and a non-binary person all in our late 30s and 40s, is helping to change the demographics of performers on stage and, prior to Covid, drew diverse crowds to local shows.”

One of her bandmates, Jori Cachene, says GRR had a profound impact on her.

“I was a closet guitarist and lyricist, playing and singing since I was a teenager – and I’m now 40,” says Cachene. “For decades very few people have heard me play or sing. I was shy and insecure about that part of my life.”

But, at the first GRRownUps camp, she found she could leave those feelings behind.

“Everyone in my band were beginners, and I felt like a beginner too. I taught myself how to play, sing, and write music, so I knew the chords, but at the camp I learned how to perform and how to be open to working with other people, because I’d only ever worked alone. I’d never played in a band.”

Though she’d always wanted to.

Shayna Stock (right) of Sunset Embassy
performing with singer/songwriter
Jaecy Bells (left) at a GRR 80s fundraiser.
Photo: Still from the documentary I'm
Gonna Play Loud

“As a teenager, a lot of boys around me were in bands. I always thought they were better than me, so I couldn’t play with them. In retrospect, they weren’t good. Now, I’m sure I could have kept up with them. And, until GRR, I never lost that mentality of not being able to keep up. But, at Girls Rock Regina I knew it was ok to be vulnerable, to be a beginner, and that we were all on the same playing field. That it was a safe space.”

In the documentary, Marsh states that “it’s not just about empowering the next generation, it’s about empowering us, now.”

Cachene couldn’t agree more.

“There is definitely strength in numbers,” says the guitarist, who adds that it felt so good to write and perform together.

“It was the perfect storm. We are all in the right place and time in our lives to continue playing and writing music together. And now, we’re focused on getting an album together,” says Cachene.

I'm Gonna Play Loud: Girls Rock Regina & the Ripple Effect has screened at the Toronto Short Film Festival, where it won Best Short Documentary and an Audience Choice Award. Next week it is being screened at the Albuquerque Film and Music Experience in New Mexico, and at the Rock This Town Music and Film Festival in Pau, France in November.