Billing themselves as "Madison's most notorious holiday drunkards," the seasonal band known as Waylan St. Palan & the Magic Elves only comes out to play before a jolly public once every Christmas season. Getting their start in 2000, lounging around the old Slipper Club for a couple of years before moving on to the Brink Lounge last year.
"This band is stupid," declares singer Waylan Nate Palan about the Elves. "I get drunk and sing Christmas carols with a small big-band. Cheesy as hell." He discusses the origins of the group and their approach to holiday tunes in last week's Isthmus article by Kenneth Burns about Christmas music created and performed in Madison. Simply put, the group distills the holiday to a garish, tinseled spirit.
The saint and his little helpers are returning to the Brink Lounge again this year, bringing a sack of Christmas jewels and plenty of good cheer to the basement jazz club on Friday, December 14.
'I figured this would be a perfect way to get into the Christmas Spirit," wrote Kiki Schueler in her review of the Magic Elves' show at the Slipper Club back in 2004. She stopped by their shows over the last two years too -- 2005 and 2006 -- noting both the group's broad holiday repertoire and the perils of preserving the contents of martini glasses. "Predictably the show started pretty well behaved and, much like Nate, devolved as the night wore on," she wrote about their show last year, which featured a full stocking of classics like "Feliz Navidad," "Blue Christmas," "Santa Baby," "Melikalikimaka," and of course, "This Christmas I Spend with You."
This final song was made famous by Robert Goulet, the singer and stage star who released a pair of Christmas albums in the '60s and made a cameo appearance as himself as the host of "Bob Goulet's Cajun Christmas" in the 1988 Dickens adaptation Scrooged. Goulet passed away in October, but his holiday spirit lives on in the music.
A live concert video of Waylan St. Palan & the Magic Elves performing "This Christmas I Spend with You" at their show last year that was shot by Schueler follows.
"When the band returned for the demanded encore, they played two songs they had already done in the first set, the difference being that Nate was now shirtless under his holiday plaid jacket, though I'm not sure what we did to deserve that," concluded Schueler about last year's show. "As always it was ridiculously entertaining night courtesy of one of Madison's most talented musicians."