Sacramento singer-songwriters recreate a living-room vibe to get that down-home sound
During the monthly Living Room Sessions at Old Ironsides, music is made, stories are shared and mistakes are welcome
A couch, an end table, a lamp. There’s no place quite as cozy as a living room. So, when local musician Erik Hanson got the opportunity to host a monthly series at Old Ironsides, he knew what he wanted to do—outfit the stage with a couch, some chairs and whatever else was needed to temporarily transform it into a comfortable, homey space.
The idea: Songwriters would come hang out, shoot the shit and maybe even play a few tunes.
The couch never did make it to the stage, and a lamp and end table only lasted a couple of gigs. Still, even with just a few chairs, the idea remained the same, and so he kept the original name, The Living Room Sessions.
Besides, it isn’t décor that gives Hanson’s monthly series its down-home feel, it’s the vibe. Since its inception in November 2013, the shows, which take place every second Thursday of the month at Old Ironsides, feature Hanson and a pair of singer-songwriters trading off on songs, talking and pretty much going wherever the mood takes them.
And mistakes are welcome.
“I like the fuck-ups,” Hanson says. “That’s the charm of it. Instead of being perfect, I’d rather see the cracks. We’re all having a good time. It’s a more relaxed atmosphere.”
It was Kevin Seconds, the local punk icon and singer-songwriter, who first sparked the idea with a similar showcase he did back in the 2000s-era True Love Coffeehouse days. Back then, Seconds brought on other songwriters, including Hanson, to trade off on songs and chat.
Now, for Hanson, each show goes its own way—it all just depends on the guest. Hanson may play host, but it’s the artists who hold the power.
“I’ll start on a certain road, if they want to deviate from that, I let them,” Hanson says. “I had Sherman Baker playing a couple months ago. Before one song, we talked for 15 minutes. He was telling stories about old roommates … that’s what I want.”
In February, Hanson was joined by his sister, Freeport guitarist and vocalist Jeannie Howell, as well as Knock Knock’s Allen Maxwell. Between songs, the trio swapped stories about something they had in common—their hometown of Yuba City.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it turned out to be a sweet trip down nostalgia lane,” Howell says. “When we get together, it’s inevitable that the Yuba pours out. We joked about legends of friends and places we knew and loved.”
Every show closes each session by playing a cover tune with the other songwriters. So far, sets have included takes on Oasis’ “Roll With It,” New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” and Townes Van Zandt’s “Dead Flowers,” to name a few.
Other than that one constant, however, Hanson aims to create an anything-goes, virtually structureless environment.
“It’s just like if I invited people over to my living room and said, ’Let’s just play some music and bullshit.’ I don’t feel like I’m on a stage at all,” Hanson says. “I’d rather have the audience up there with me. I want bean bags [onstage] so they can come up and hang out. That is my ultimate goal—to have the audience surround us.”