Material: Andras Jones has a somewhat baffling song style; equal parts comedic and introspective, it is difficult to decipher which songs are meant to be taken seriously and which are meant to summon laughter. At their best, Jones’ stories provide a unique perspective and interesting lyrical choices. At worst, the songs have confusing narratives and make some rookie mistakes. The pursuit of “true art” may have pulled Jones away from songs that relate to anyone but himself. This isn’t necessarily bad, but if not kept in check, songs like these will remain basement hits and never progress to a wider audience.
Musicianship: Jones and all of his guests are skilled players. The singer himself can boast a Rivers Cuomo-esque charm in vocal style, but it could be easy to see all of the very similar guitar parts as slightly juvenile. At this show, keyboardist Marshall Thompson, guitarist John Shroeder, trombonist Vikram Devasthali, and guest vocalist Miranda Lee Richards proved to be excellent additions. “Spin the Bottle” was a particular standout in the set, with a folky sound that just made sense for the stories Jones wanted to tell. Adopting that sound could be a huge game-changer for this act.
Performance: As usual for The Hotel Cafe, there were almost too many cooks in the kitchen for the set to be comfortable. The small stage had a difficult time housing every performer, and it came off as unrehearsed despite that not being the case. The cramped quarters allowed for very little interaction between performers and no real movement to engage the audience. The sheer fact that the group didn’t take themselves too seriously was refreshing to see, almost like friends in a living room.
Summary: Andras Jones doesn’t fall into some of the traps most acts do; his arrangements are solid and there is obvious love in each song. However, Jones creates new problems for himself. All of these issues can be solved with a solid and thought-out answer to a single question: why do these songs exist? It may sound harsh, but knowing what your songs want and the life you want them to live is crucial in deciding tone. Is their purpose to be comedic, or to be thought-provoking? To gather a small cult following, or appeal to the masses? Some soul searching could give Jones the perspective that will put him on the right track
Players: Andras Jones, guitar, vocals; Marshall Thompson, keys, vocals; John Schroeder, electric guitar; Vikram Devasthali, trombone, vocals; Miranda Lee Richards, vocals