After 15 years, one of Madison’s most beloved cover bands is calling it quits.
The rock trio Hometown Sweethearts is a self-described “music lover’s party band” that has filled up dance floors at weddings, on radio shows like “Whad’ya Know,” and at the Crystal Corner Bar, their signature haunt, since 2002. Even after lead vocalist and guitarist Nate Palan left for New York City in 2008, the crew kept the act together, with Palan flying back to the Midwest frequently for gigs.
But there won’t be an easy fix when bassist Chris Boeger moves to Australia in two weeks. Boeger’s wife landed a job there to help out a university with fundraising, and he’ll go with to continue his full-time musical career in a different hemisphere.
For those who want to hear the music one last time, the Hometown Sweethearts will play a final string of shows in Madison from Thursday through Saturday. They’ll begin with a set at Central Park Sessions, 202 S. Ingersoll St., on Thursday from 5-6 p.m. Friday, they’ll play a retirement party at the High Noon Saloon, 701A E. Washington Ave., at 5:30-7:30 p.m., followed by a show at the Crystal Corner, 1302 Williamson Street, starting at 9:30 p.m.
The band will also play a brief show at the Badgerville tailgating party outside Camp Randall Stadium at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
Palan said the timing feels right for the band to split. He wants to refocus his musical energy on New York City, where he’s pursuing a degree in sound engineering at City College in Harlem. Plus, he has a son now, making the thought of constantly flying back to Wisconsin less appealing.
Still, it’s a bittersweet end. Palan said he’ll miss the band immensely. “We developed a synergy that locked us together,” he said.
Boeger said the band has been a cornerstone of his career for years. Most of the songs he’s played with the band are now muscle memory.
“It started off as a goof-off band anyways. It was just us dinking around, playing the songs we like,” he said. “And it’s still like that.”
Boeger first joined forces with Nate “Waylan” Palan and drummer Scott Beardsley when he recruited them for a throwaway gig at the eastside bar Damon’s. The crew had fun together and began playing more shows, until one fateful night at the Weary Traveler when they brought the house down.
“The whole place blew up,” said Boeger. “There were women dancing on tables.”
It’s not uncommon for the band to blow up the venues they play, something that could be attributable to the band’s quirky energy, as well as to the depth of their catalog. Today, Boeger estimates they have 300 to 400 songs under their belt. They’ve made it a point to learn a new song every week.
“Music is all built of the same stuff,” explained Boeger. “I could show you things that are in Metallica that are also in jazz songs.”
There are no rules when it comes to the kinds of music the Hometown Sweethearts have played. They do the greatest hits — songs like “Shout” by the Isley Brothers and “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield. For weddings, which comprise the majority of the shows the band plays, “What a Wonderful World” is a go-to for first dances.
The band also relishes the unexpected. Palan said songs by They Might be Giants or Neutral Milk Hotel often get an enthusiastic reception. Madison is a town “with good taste,” said Palan, which gives them a lot of room to play deeper cuts.
“That really ended up being a big aim for our group, was to find those songs that everybody remembers, but aren’t getting hit over head with all the time,” he said.
According to Boeger, the band’s true specialty is “the music that three guys don’t have any business doing," stuff like music by Madonna, or complicated synthy songs by Depeche Mode or Aha.