Look, Madison, Nate Palan is moving to New York, okay? The sooner you come to grips with that fact, the better. That means no more Tuesday nights spent dancing as his celebrated cover band, Hometown Sweethearts, pumps out the best party set ever pulled together at the Crystal Corner.
So instead of blubbering about it, let's celebrate the luck we've had to be in the same town as the Sweethearts lo these many years. Some personal highlights:
- The Sweethearts' performance on a Valentine's Day a few years back prompted a big-shot local musician who will remain nameless to lean over and ask me, "What if Madison's best band is a cover band?"
- Last winter, as I was knocking the snow off my boots in the entryway of Babe's on Madison's west side, I looked up to see Sweethearts drummer Scott Beardsley waving at me from behind his kit. Bass player Chris Boeger immediately followed suit. Palan was otherwise occupied, singing the theme song to WKRP in Cincinnati.
- At the first Madison's Favorite Block Party Isthmus threw, back in 2002, the Sweethearts opened the festivities and ensured that the party got started right. With the sun sinking behind the Capitol, the street filled with goofballs dancing to Duran Duran's "Rio."
I tracked Palan down by email Tuesday afternoon, the day of the Sweethearts' final Tuesday night gig at the Crystal. He graciously answered the following questions.
The Daily Page: Do you remember the Hometown Sweethearts' first gig at the Crystal? What was it like?
Palan: I put a great amount of effort convincing the folks at Crystal Corner to hire us on for Tuesday nights. We had been doing every other Thursday at the Weary Traveler, and it was just getting out of hand there. The shows were uncomfortably packed. Once we moved it down the street, we had 100+ people coming down from the get-go. We somehow struck a chord with Madison. It was the right band at the right time, or something.
You've made your own music with Electric Automatic, but you're much better known around town for your work with a cover band (Hometown Sweethearts), an Irish rock band (The Kissers) and even singing boozey Christmas songs as Waylan St. Palan. Does that ever bother you?
A little. I sent out copies of the last Electric Automatic album, Travelling Companion, to anyone who would review it. I received a scathingly bad one from an on-line reviewer that had loved the first record, and it kind of killed a bit of my confidence as a songwriter, which made playing other people's material a relief. Now that it's been a few years, I'm coming to realize that I was really proud of that project, to the point where I'm planning to revive it once I get to Brooklyn. It's my most comfortable writing style, and I think I still have a lot of good songs left in me.
Of all the songs you guys play, which one do you think you've played the most? And which one do you like the least?
We've opened with "King of the Road" practically every show we've ever played. Though lately we've been skipping it, it was the show opener for a solid 5 years. If we never played Jessy's Girl again, I wouldn't miss it.
When it comes to Madison cover bands, it's you guys and The Gomers. Who would win in a stump the band contest between you guys?
That is a good question. I'd guess between the two of our bands, we could fake every song every written.
When the Kissers bid farewell a few months ago, we all kind of knew we'd see them together again at some point. What about the Sweethearts? Is it really over? And what can you tell us about his majesty, Waylan St. Palan's future?
It's not over at all. Only the Tuesday weekly show will come to an end. The three of us in the Sweethearts have a musical and personal bond that really only comes once in a lifetime. We're still a popular wedding band, which will keep me flying back to Madison on a semi-regular basis. I'll even be back in Madison next month to do a string of weddings and regular shows. As for the Magic Elves, I'm planning to take this year off. That project will see the light of day again for sure, so long as I continue to have relatives to visit in the Mid-West around the holidays.
Can people still buy the Hometown Sweethearts CD? Where?
We still have CD's that I try to remember to bring to every show. It's not in the CD stores, and won't be. The CD is free, but you have to pay for the personalized art work.