A brief history of Ryley Walker tweeting about Madison

In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.

In Microtones, our newsletter-first column. (Photo by Evan Jenkins.)

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MICROTONES by Scott Gordon, editor-in-chief and publisher

If you’ve been following local conversations on Twitter the past couple of days, you’ve likely encountered a lot of talk about whether people should move to Madison and why. (If you’re not a heavy Twitter user, please continue to make healthy life choices and bear with me a sec) Just as Twitter conversation was ramping up about an in-depth Madison Magazine piece on Madison’s increasingly treacherous rental housing market, Vox journalist Matthew Yglesias Tweeted his own thoughts about moving here. It’s a conversation that ties into electoral politics, climate change, job opportunities, and of course the cost of living. I’m hoping we can give that conversation the space and consideration it deserves on Tone Madison in the coming weeks. But I also want to make sure it doesn’t overshadow another noteworthy tweet from this week about moving to Madison, this one from musician Ryley Walker:

Walker makes great music, but he’s also got the kind of jackass brilliance that makes Twitter fun. His feed is full of bizarrely funny tweets about eating other bands’ green-room snacksin-jokes about the touring life, and praise for albums that hold up. As a Rockford native and longtime Chicagoan (he recently relocated to New York), Walker also clearly is more familiar with Madison than with just any town on the tour route, and maybe views it with a certain affectionate puzzlement. And I can’t help but notice when he mentions us here and there.

Usually Madison isn’t the butt of Walker’s jokes so much as a supporting prop. “sales of ernie ball volume pedals in madison wisconsin peaked when students heard bloc party ‘blue light,'” he tweeted in March. And in January: “I keep laughing imagining the ER of college towns like Madison or Columbus has to do like 10 emergency finger trauma surgeries from all the math rock band injuries.” It reflects that regional sense that Madison is a place where silly or frivolous things are likely to happen.

Madison also gets a place in one of Walker’s choice touring anecdotes: “Once used a special edition DVD of “kill bill” as a pillow after a gig in Madison,” he wrote in September 2015. Again, this could kind of be any town, and as in most of his tweets, Walker is dunking on himself more than he is on anyone or anything else. My personal favorite is this one from June: “They call me the bad boy of indie rock cause I still haven’t paid for my parking violation when I didn’t feed the meter outside of a We Are Scientists gig in Madison 15 years ago.” There’s also one about getting a parking ticket after a Mates Of State show and one about smoking crack in the bathroom at the Orpheum.

Which brings us to a more a serious note. Walker recently had a great, vulnerable, and candid discussion with a podcast called Crash And Ride about his sobriety and mental-health struggles. In that interview, he talks a bit about the unhealthy side of having an often over-the-top, life-of-the-party public persona. But the dude clearly has an amazing sense of humor, and that can also play a very healthy role in a person’s life. If he wants to peripherally rib us now and again as he works through everything he describes in that conversation (it’s seriously worth a listen!), then we here in fish-fry land should be honored.


Madison electronic duo Klack makes triumphant and nostalgic dance music.

On our latest podcast short, City of Madison arts administrator Karin Wolf talks about the relationship between public art and street art.

We’re partnering up with Arts + Literature Laboratory to present a show by experimental musician John Wiese on August 10. We’ve also got some news coming about a few more events we are working on for the fall. 

Elsewhere on the Madison internet: The local jazz community mourns the loss of Gary Alderman, a longtime WORT jazz host and music historian. The Wisconsin Examiner eulogizes Ian Murphy, best known in Madison for an infamous prank phone call with Scott Walker. The Chazen Musem of Art is expanding its hours. The Wisconsin State Journal reports on the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Richard Davis Lane, an east-side street that will now bear the name of the legendary bassist and retired UW-Madison professor. 

This week’s Madison calendar: A “low-sensory” dance night at Crucible. Pleasure Leftists at Mickey’sAnd more.

Help us publish more weird, questing, brilliant, feisty, “only on Tone Madison” stories


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