A Joel Shanahan moving-away guest mix

A sort-of farewell to a wonderful Tone Madison contributor and Madison music dude.

A sort-of farewell to a wonderful Tone Madison contributor and Madison music dude. {Photo by Heidi Johnson/Blue Umbrella Arts)

If you’ve participated in music in Madison over the past eight years, especially in the more adventurous and abrasive side of things, there’s a decent chance that Joel Shanahan has made your life a little better, directly or indirectly, in a small way or a big way, whether you know him or not (although it seems like everybody knows Joel). There are many people here in Madison who contribute to music and the arts on multiple fronts, making extra effort to shine a light on others (whether that’s playing in multiple bands, setting up shows, writing about music, hosting radio shows, and/or some combination thereof), and of course Joel is just one of those dedicated people. Joel, who writes for Tone Madison, plays electronic music under various monikers (Golden Donna, Auscultation), puts on lots of cool experimental shows out of his own pocket, and occasionally puts out other folks’ music on his Signal Dreams label, just the one I know best. He’s moving from Madison to Portland this month, and is having a goodbye show at the High Noon tonight, so indulge me for a moment.

As a contributor, Joel has made Tone Madison (and before that the now quite dead A.V. Club Madison) immeasurably better. He’s someone I can always count on for an honest perspective, and he’s pushed me to do better and dig deeper and listen harder. Thanks to Joel, there’s been a lot more coverage of experimental music and awesome but little-appreciated touring artists in Madison than there would have been otherwise, but his interests aren’t limited to that. Over our years of working together, Joel has written thoughtfully, passionately and sincerely about artists ranging from folk-blues outfit Boo Bradley to DJ Phil Money to Waka Flocka Flame.


Although he’s very tied into Madison music a performer, collaborator, friend and occasional show-booker, Joel’s also shown a ton of integrity in dealing with the inevitable incestuousness of covering music in a small city. You never get the sense that he’s writing an article as just a favor to a friend, or just to ingratiate himself with somebody, or just to follow a trend, or that he’s taking a cheap shot at something for the sake of being snarky. Joel Shanahan takedowns are delightful—alas, the concert reviews he wrote for A.V. Club Madison have been deep-sixed from the Internet—but you have to be really asking for it. What comes through instead is Joel’s deep-reaching curiosity and knowledge as a listener. A lot of people try their hand at music journalism, but few approach it with Joel’s borderline-neurotic pride. And thanks to Joel’s delightful whimsy regarding deadlines, I have seen the fabric of time itself warped and strained in ways that beggar description.

Joel will still be pursuing a lot of music (though his move is mostly for personal reasons) and contributing toTone from a distance and probably still be more in tune with Madison music than most people, but we’ll definitely feel his absence here. To mark the occasion, he’s made us a bonkers hour-and-a-half guest mix, which you can stream below.

Thanks a ton, Joel. It’s been a real featherman’s crest.

An ode to the best and worst of Madison summers.

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