Semaphore, the Chicago Avenue studio where scores of local punk, metal, and noise bands have cut records, singles, and demos since 2000, is closing at the end of this month. According to one of the studio's five partners, Jeremy Lemos, expenses—mostly rent and utilities—had doubled in the last several years. But in-demand engineer/producer Sanford Parker added in an e-mail: "Just let it be known it was more of the owners being burned out on running a studio than the high overhead. If we were 10 years younger it wouldn't be closing." Parker will be working "almost exclusively" at Engine Studios and traveling to record in other studios, while Lemos will continue to spend most of his time as a live-sound engineer for Iron and Wine, Sonic Youth, and others. According to Lemos, Matt DeWine, who recorded and worked with Jay Bennett at Champaign's Pieholden Studios, will be taking over the space in January.
Local singer-songwriter Angel Olsen has a new project, The Babblers, with country-folk weirdo Will Oldham. As seen on YouTube, the six-piece made its live debut in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last week wearing head-to-toe camouflage and sunglasses. At this point no look would surprise Gossip Wolf on Oldham, whom we spotted a few years back sporting orange Crocs and soiled medical scrubs in the produce aisle of a local grocery store.
Via Tania, now via Sydney: after 11 years in Chicago, songstress and stylist Tania Bowers is heading back home to Australia come February. Bowers tells Gossip Wolf that she plans on continuing to perform as Via Tania "in some form."
Local singer-songwriter Justin Roberts nabbed himself a Grammy™ nod this week in the Best Children's Album category for Jungle Gym, which features venerable local bartender/Poi Dog Pondering trumpeter/accordionist Max Crawford. Chicago reissue label Numero Group is also up for a statue, with a nomination in the Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package category for
Complete Mythology, their new retrospective on local soul legend Syl Johnson the photo book and compilation Light: On the South Side.
Rapping aldermanic candidate Che "Rhymefest" Smith launched a book drive this week. The program, Catch People Reading, or CPR, aims to encourage inner-city kids to read over the holidays. Young adult and children's books can be dropped off at two south-side locations before December 22: Kennedy King College, 6301 S. Halsted, building W144, and Exclusively Yours Auto Spa, 5820 S. State.
Owen has just been announced as a special guest for Girls Rock! Chicago's annual 50 Shows in 50 States fund-raiser, December 16 at Schubas. The benefit supports the wider mission of the nonprofit Girls Rock Camp Association, which guides some two dozen camps nationally.
Though it doesn't open for another few weeks, reports in the media already have it that the new Broadway show, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, set to premiere early next year, is a turkey worthy of a holiday meal. Lampooned in the past week by Conan and Saturday Night Live, it's the costliest show in Broadway history, with a price tag of a whopping $65,000,000. But at least a little bit is going to Mat Devine, front man for local mall-goth band Kill Hannah, who has a supporting role in the show as one of the web slinger's nemeses, Grim Hunter. That means the band won't be performing its annual "New Heart for Xmas" shows this year.
Philip Von Zweck, the man behind the new-music showcase Something Else on WLUW for the past 15 years, will be hosting the final installment of the show on December 19. "The next stop was at 20," he says, "and I didn't think I had another five years in me." Von Zweck has a history of bringing acclaimed improv freaks and out-rock heroes—KK Null, Willem de Ridder, Cock ESP—into the studio for live performances, and this week, airing December 12, he'll host Gunshop, playing their first set in the better part of a decade. He tells Gossip Wolf that for his last show he'll "probably just play most of my favorite tracks from over the years." Something Else airs Sunday nights from 10 PM to 2 AM on 88.7 FM.
Speaking of "soiled," R. Kelly has posted a stream of Love Letter, the album due to hit stores December 14, on his Facebook page. We'll take a pass; while we've heard the record shows the Chicago R&B kingpin in fine form, we've learned to dodge a stream of any sort from Mr. Kelly.