The Quebe Sisters & The Hello Strangers – Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine, July 23rd, 2016

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I hear a lot of people complaining about Facebook, saying people are wasting their time on it, and although much of that statement is true, there are still some great things about Facebook. Sure it’s a great place to reconnect with old school chums and maybe meet your future ex-wife, but it is also a great place to keep abreast of the latest tour dates of your favorite bands, as well as learn about new bands that you may never have heard about now that MTV is no longer your news feed, and we all know popular radio is shit. The point of my rant?

Some one of my friends on Facebook put up a video of The Quebe Sisters playing on some TV show, and I was blown away. If you ask anybody who knows me, bluegrass music is not my scene; it’s too old, too slow, and it just doesn’t do much for me. Yet, I heard these ladies fiddling and singing in such amazing harmony, that at the end of viewing their video, I immediately Googled them to see where their tour was taking them. To my joy and excitement, I found they would be playing just up the street from me and three weeks later I was taking them in live.

Opening the show was a band called The Hello Strangers. The band is made up of two sisters, Brechyn and Larissa Chace, on vocals, guitar and other assorted instruments, and Tom Hoy on bass guitar, Spencer Pheil on lead guitar, and Trent Renshaw on drums. The band came up from Pennsylvania and have their own take on the bluegrass downhome sound. On this night, their parents were in attendance, and it was fun to see them give them recognition from the stage. The crowd seemed to really enjoy their set, as did I.

The Quebe Sisters were up next and like the video that first brought me here, they did not disappoint. The Sisters are Grace Quebe, Sophia Quebe, and Hulda Quebe. All three sisters play fiddle and sing. They harmonize with each other beautifully and really have this natural old time sound that brings you back to the days when Sherriff Andy Taylor, Opie and Aunt Bea would sit around the radio and listen to the music. It is very much that sound and those harmonies that make these women so special. In a world where everybody is using computers to fix vocal imperfections and to generate guitar and drum tones, the Quebe Sisters are kicking it old school, no auto tune needed here, just practice, and they definitely have done their practicing.

Backed by Simon Stipp on guitar and Daniel Parr on stand up bass, they played through a twenty-two song set full of old standards and a few newer covers, but all were of the same vein and feel. It was a beautiful night for music.

After the set the Quebe Sisters came out and mingled with their fans. I had the chance to ask them a couple questions while I bought a CD and poster, which they so graciously signed for me. I asked Grace Quebe, the oldest sister at 23, how all three of them chose the fiddle. She told me, and I am paraphrasing, “Our mom wanted us all to play an instrument and really loved the violin. She had never heard of fiddling before, but we loved it so we started there. We practiced and would play fairs and started winning competitions, and then we decided to work on our singing and started the band.”

Hulda, the youngest at 18, was kind enough to answer a few questions I sent her:

Maine Music News: It seems that you girls are really close knit. but even the closest family has spats here and there, what are the best and worst parts about touring with your family?

Hulda: I’m laughing ‘cause we do get in arguments but they usually end with us laughing at ourselves. We really agree on 99% of everything so I think that’s been the reason we work well together.

MMN: You do a lot of old classic standards and some great songs that totally have the feel of yesteryear, have you ever done something new but in the style of something old, that maybe wasn’t quite traditional, even if it was just messing around in rehearsal, like a rap song or an R&B or Rock or Metal song? (I think it would be awesome to hear a cover of something like Snoop Dogg or even a Beatles song, but making it your own.)

Hulda: We honestly don’t try to have a vintage sound. I think the nature of the instrumentation we have and our early influences have shaped our sound to have a traditional vibe. We do play a wide variety of songs, some are older and others are not. We haven’t tried a rap tune (ha ha) but we are delving into songwriting. It’s a whole different animal and its super rewarding.

MMN: Any lessons you’ve learned from the road?

Hulda: Be humble. Take advice from others. It makes you a better person to live with, and a better musician.

MMN: You mentioned you came up to Maine in the winter, did you bring winter jackets?

Hulda: Surprisingly, no, we didn’t.

MMN: Assuming you get some downtime on the road, what do you like to do, and do you do it together, or do each of you go off and do your own things?

Hulda: Some tours we do have time off but it’s usually not a ton of time. We like to play a lot when we are out, so we pretty much try work every night except for days when we have to do long travel. When we do have time off we like to see anything that’s cool in the area and also rehearse and catch up on sleep (ha ha).

MMN: And since this is a Maine thing, how did you like Maine?

Hulda: We love Maine. The food is awesome, people are friendly, and the countryside is beautiful. Can’t ask for more than that in a state.

Thank you Quebe Sisters, and we will definitely catch you again next time around.

The Set List:

Jesse Polka – Cold, Cold Heart – Every Which-a-Way – Worried Over You – Twin Guitar Special – Yearning – Going Away Party – If I Talk To Him – South – Wayfaring – Teardrops – Navajo Trail – Bluegrass in the Backwoods – Leaving & Sayin’ – Flatbush Waltz – Sally Goodin – Avalon – Life’s Companion – Summer of Roses – Speed the Plow medley – It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie

Encore: Twilight on the Trail

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