News from the Stairwell

The weblog of The Stairwell Sisters – All-Gal Old-Time String Band

Happy New Year

The month kicks off with 10 days of great music on both sides of the Bay with the San Francisco Bluegrass & Old Time Festival – check out for all details of concerts, workshops, family events and of course, a giant square dance! We’re also heading down into the valley for some shows…


JUST ADDED: 3/7 Sisters LIVE on the Morning Show, KFOG, 104.5, SF; 3/8-9 Evie teaches in Colorado at Swallow Hill & the OME Banjo Factory; 3/15 Great American Music Hall, SF!; Northwest CD RELEASE Tour: 5/30 Tractor Tavern, Seattle w/ The TALLBOYS; 5/31 Pacific Bluegrass Society, Vancouver, BC; 6/1 Nancy’s Farm, Bellingham – For all dates :


What a fabulous trip to Alaska we had! Moose wandering around outside our hotel, amazing halibut Vietnamese style, 1000 ft. drop sledding adventure, oh, and a very fun festival. Gracious hosts, free concerts, wonderful musicians, huge dances, and a warm and inviting audience. Made us feel right at home, except home isn’t an excellent hotel with a pool and free DINNER. Made us excited to be going back to Alaska in June, to Nome for the Midnight Sun Festival – we look forward to seeing some of our new friends there. Special thanks to all the Harlan handlers! He’s a handful of love, that boy, and fun to have on his first tour as roadie.

The gals face a true winter!

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Fall Report

Dear Ones -

The wind is turning and the fog is rolling in, and October brings some very special shows. Come join a rowdy audience at the Freight & Salvage Saturday October 27 for a live recording of our new songs for the record. We go into the studio with Lloyd Maines and Bruce Kaphan the following week, towards a Spring, 2008 release of our long awaited third CD. We hope to see you there, or at a show nearest you. 



JUST ADDED 2/2/08 SFBOT Concert at Noe Valley Ministry, SF



“These talented women keep the stringband tradition alive and hopping with tight vocal harmonies, buckdancing, haunting ballads and dynamic original material… they have a ball while challenging the audience to do the same.”

–Metro Santa Cruz, Sept. 2007


We had a nice crowd in Santa Cruz and a truly fun show in Berkeley, warming up the crowd for the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention…if you missed it you missed a very fun weekend here at home. The weather was perfect, all jamming happens between the hours of midnight and dawn, and if you didnt let the square dance totally wear you out you might have seen our alter flower children egos swinging at the cabaret the answer my friends is here in Berkeley, the answer is BOTMC.



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Summer News

Hope you’re having a fabulous summer festival season. We’re chugging right along…There are a few Stairwell dates this month, plus Evie is doing a bazillion library shows with Keith Terry for families. Hope to see you!

-JUST ADDED – May, 2008 Topanga Banjo & Fiddle Contest, LA, CA; May, 2008 Red Barn Concert, Los Osos, CA; August, 2008 Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival, St. Cloud, MN

Evie had a blast at Steve Kaufman’s Acoustic Kamp in TN, teaching banjo and clogging alongside old-time staff Bruce Molsky and Wayne Erbsen, and she performed her first ever solo concert set…and rocked out. With her bolstered courage (and a new “girl elvis” suit), she came home to her 6th year at Fiddlekids teaching dance moves to young fiddle players, and enjoying jams and conversation with fellow staff Laura Risk, Helen White and others. Evie’s whiling away summer daze performing duo shows with body musician Keith Terry and their son Clay on ukulele. Sue has been working on a building…a recording studio at Community Musician, as well as doing CD, DVD and Web design for Slammin All-Body Band, Keith Terry and Cousin Dale. Martha hit the San Francisco scene with Bill Foss and Karen Heil as the Knuckle Knockers. Steph’s been listening to Rafe Stefanini, Lisa is enjoying the beautiful sounds of baby Harlan, and Harlan has already heard a whole lot of music.

We’re putting our noses to the grindstone working on our new stuff, and playing festivals close to home. We’re already booking the 2008 CD release season, while we enjoy the fruits of the current season – literally – the farmers’ markets are ripe to bursting.

Stairwell Sisters are featured on this on-line roots website, based in Scotland – with an interview conducted during Celtic Connections in Glasgow – a quite funny transcription….

Stairwell Sisters made the society pages for their performance at Ballet & Bluegrass, a fundraiser for the Marin Ballet Theater – music for live dancing by the celebrated former prima ballerina Joanna Berman among others. Thanks to Warren Hellman for inviting us!

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Welcome Harlan! New Reviews, Tour Dates / Southwest Tour

Hello Friends!
We are beside ourselves, tickled and pleased as punch to announce the arrival of Lisa & Ryk’s baby boy, born at 11:40pm on April 29th! Welcome Harlan Booker Groetchen, the beautiful boy with the blackest hair. Both mom and baby are doing great! In music news, we’re working on our new material – lots of original songs to choose from – and enjoying Spring. A big thanks to Erik Pearson who filled his Mister Sister slot with style on our Southwest Tour – details below.

-JUST ADDEDAnchorage Folk Festival, Alaska in January..brrrr; Concert in Sunnyvale, CA 10/20; Concert on the shores of Lake Tahoe 8/24; Summer Of Love 40th Anniversary Concert 7/22 and Festival 8/19 featuring some incredible bands including Big Brother & the Holding Company, Canned Heat, Tea Leaf Green and many more…details to come.

Stairwell Sisters are featured in the May issue of fROOTS Magazine, THE folk music magazine of Europe – from an interview conducted in Scotland this January. You can find the issue at Down Home Music, and other, chain bookstores. From the article:
“Five multi-instrumental, singing, dancing old-time gals hit the UK…their sassy modern take on southern old-time string band music was so feisty..they caught everyone’s attention.”

Stairwell Sisters are featured on the premier broadcast of Old Time Traveler. Tune in to Old Time Music Radio on May 2nd, 2007 at 8:00 PM CT, for an intimate interview where we play some as yet unrecorded, original songs.

Old Time Music Radio will broadcast a new edition of Old Time Traveler, a one-hour program that features new releases from the world of Old Time Music and an interview with an Old Time Musician or Group, on the first Wednesday of the month at 8:00 PM CT. Encore broadcasts of Old Time Traveler will air on the following Wednesdays at 8:00 PM CT.

For more information:

We had a fabulous reception in both Albuquerque and Durango, where we headed for the Durango Meltdown. In three days we encountered snow, rain and the gorgeous blue skies at mountain elevation. Altitude wore us down a little, but didn’t stop people from claiming us as “the hit of the festival.” We loved the Victorian hotel, hospitality and unbridled enthusiasm of the crowds. The square dance, a recent addition to the festival line-up, was a huge hit – check out a fairly hysterical review of the event, where they claimed having us play for their hippie-hopping crowd “had an air of overkill, like the Beatles doing a bar mitzvah”!

-We were reviewed by an Italian music journalist Salvatore Esposito, and the on-line translation yielded some funny phrases, but can’t be right – can you translate for us?

-another review from Celtic Connections (UK):



riptide1.JPGOH – Steph’s Birthday was celebrated in style – At the Riptide in SF with Super Cher, Helga, Morticia and, um, who is that bass player?

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Sisters go International

We had a fabulous tour in Scotland – our first truly international festival, we were honored to bring our old-time sound to the stages. In addition to concert sets at the Celtic Connections festival, we appeared twice in the Festival Club, the raucous party that never ends on the bottom floor of the hotel where we stayed, and the only place to find curry & chips late into the night – not to mention the formidable numbers of Scotch that beg tasting!

We arrived at 7:30 am and first played at 2am that same night, about the best way to introduce us to the time frame for the tour. Other American performers who were on their way home from their portion of the three week festival advised us to stay on North American time, going to bed after breakfast, and getting up for sound check.

City Hall - Glasgow
We shared stages with the debonair Quebecois trio Genticorum, and the gorgeous Gallic singer Julie Fowlis, earning the concert a five star review, that also named us “the find of the festival.” We had to turn our clock around though, since we had a morning taping for BBC TV to be aired at a future date. It was wonderful to hear us introduced in Gallic – about the only words we understood being “Stairwell Sisters” and “Sugar Hill.”

Our second concert was recorded for BBC Radio, Andy Kershaw’s famed program, for broadcast all over the UK later in February. In the beautiful old Fruitmarket, we shared a bill with a 12 piece brass band from Brittany – L’Occidentale de Fanfare. Talk about being blown away! We are lucky to be in the hands of a fantastic agent, Loudon Temple, who made sure everyone knew we were coming and no one got allergic. Major thanks to him, and to our very first roadie, Gerald, who ferried us around answering questions about sheep and shaggy Aberdeen Angus cows, labor laws and health care, haggis, fried hamburgers, beer, scotch, lager, whisky, um, nevermind . We gladly left the left-sided driving to “wrong-turn Roche” and enjoyed the ride.
our luxury vehicle!

Once we took leave of Glasgow, it was absolutely gorgeous to head off into the country. Reminiscent of Northern California in it’s green, rolling hills, we were thrilled to see small fortress towns, castles (!) all built well before our country was even a thought. We often tell audiences at home that our music is old – but our old is a drop in the bucket over there. We played Peebles and Birnham, home to Beatrix Potter and about as idyllic, and ducked into England to the coal-town of Newcastle. Scottish audiences were so polite and quiet during the shows, and so surprisingly effusive and enraptured after. Some folks came to several shows in different towns, bringing family and friends along. They all countered “Haste ye back,” and we sure plan on it.

A big thanks to Lucy and Stuart who hosted us in Peebles in true Scottish fashion, and gave us one of the best introductions we’ve ever heard. Jan Fairley did a very fun (and delicious) interview for fRoots magazine, the folk magazine of Europe. It should come out in a few months time – but more importantly, while we spoke, we had fabulous haggis, neeps & tatties (meat & vegetarian), and some excellent hard cider, in a cozy pub. Worth the price of admission for sure. This meal begs thanks to our good friend David Jones.

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News from Lake Wobegon

Stairwell Sisters with Garrison Keilor

We knew Garrison Keillor would be bringing Prairie Home Companion to San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House on Saturday, January 13; we knew we’d be a perfect fit for his old-time radio show; but we didn’t know we’d get a call to join the program until the Tuesday before. Sue screamed so loud when she found out that we heard her clear in Oakland.

Thrilled, honored and not the least bit nervous (!), we performed to the sold-out crowd of three thousand, as well as over 4 million National Public Radio listeners.
Read more

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