My Gold Mask makes a lot of sound without much gear. The Chicago duo is Gretta Rochelle (who sings while she plays the drums, standing up) and Jack Armondo (who plays a nylon-string guitar, cranking it up much louder than a classical guitarist ever would). The two of them headlined at the Hideout on Saturday night (Jan. 9), selling out the place and filling the room with some enthusiastic fans.
Rochelle and Armondo sounded vibrant as they played songs from a new EP, A Thousand Voices, as well as their self-titled debut from last year — and one cover, Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes.” The two of them are clearly having fun as they perform, and the fun is pretty catchy. One highlight was the new song, “Violet Eyes,” which features some cool effects on the guitar and call-and-response vocals.
At the end of the set, My Gold Mask returned to the stage for one more song, naïvely asking, “Can we play another?” (Of course you can, guys!) It was apparently the first time My Gold Mask has ever had the chance to do an encore. It won’t be the last.
The first act of the night was also quite impressive. Violetness is a female singer-songwriter from Chicago. Doesn’t even have a record out yet. She’s working on an EP, and she has a couple of songs posted at www.myspace.com/violetnessmusic. (Of the two posted tracks, the one I like is “Perfect Love Flow.”) In concert, she was accompanied by a drummer and a cellist, and she played keyboards on some of the songs. In enjoyed the minimal arrangements. Her first song was just singing and drumming, which reminded me a bit of what the Swedish duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums does. Violetness has a strong voice, and she sometimes sings with a throaty tone and a jazzy swagger, with maybe a touch of Nina Simone. I can’t wait to hear what she does in the studio.
Another Chicago act, the Bitter Tears, played in between Violetness and My Gold Mask. The Bitter Tears are rather hard to categorize, a bit alt-country and a bit … glam? Well, maybe I just think glam rock when I see how they dress. The Tears like to put on makeup and outrageous outfits. The main singer was in drag Saturday night, with white makeup smeared all over his face, horror-movie-style. Tasteless jokes and provocative remarks were part of the Bitter Tears’ stage shtick. This is a band that likes to push people’s buttons. The music wasn’t bad, but it was overwhelmed by the spectacle.