My Gold Mask at the Hideout

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 (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.

Dent May plus cool openers

I went to Schubas on Thursday night (May 28) out of curiosity more than anything else. The headliner, Dent May, is a singer from Mississippi who plays the ukulele, an instrument you don’t see onstage all that often, other than maybe a short novelty number or two in the middle of a concert. The uke is all that May plays during the course of his show, and he grimaces and rears back at times like he’s wailing on an electric guitar, even though he’s just plinking those little nylon strings. It made for an interesting sight, but I have to say his pop music didn’t really connect with me like I’d hoped. It wasn’t bad, but something about his voice and his melodies wore thin on me after a few songs. And yet, a number of people in the crowd seemed to love it, calling out requests for some of his songs, so I can see this guy may be destined to attract even more fans in the future.

I was pleasantly surprised by the two opening acts, however — both of them fledgling Chicago bands that showed a lot of promise. First up was My Gold Mask, a duo with Gretta Rochelle on vocals and drums (which she played standing up) and Jack Armondo on guitar and backing vocals. They rocked with the primitive energy you often get with guitar-and-drums duos, with a great full-on vocal attack from Rochelle on several songs. The band’s debut recording is a cassette tape… Gosh, you know, I appreciate the retro technology, but I’m trying to get rid of all my old cassettes, not gather more of them, so I just bought the card to get a digital download. Check them out at and

The middle band on the bill was Very Truly Yours, which sounded an awful lot like Camera Obscura — which is a good thing, in my book. Lead singer and vocalist Kristine Capua sings in a pretty, plaintive voice while the band plays swaying pop arrangements that sound straight of the 1960s. THe group has a nice five-song EP called Reminders. The hyperbolic (and, I hope, somewhat tongue-in-cheek) liner notes claim: “Very Truly Yours is America’s leading purveyor of what will someday be called the ‘time capsule sound.’ It’s music handcrafted in the here and now for the nostalgic daydreams we’re all still working on…” In concert, the members of Very Truly Yours seemed surprised that a modest-size crowd of people was paying attention and actually clapping after the songs. “You guys are so intense!” Capua said, giving the impression that Very Truly Yours hasn’t played in front of actual audiences very often so far. Based on how cool they sounded at this show, I hope they’re destined for many more shows and recordings to come. Check them out at

Photos of Dent May, My Gold Mask and Very Truly Yours.