Monkey Town bills itself as an "audio-visual venue," which is a fair enough description. The front room is actually a small restaurant/bar (try the burger), and the back room, where the reservation-only shows take place, is basically a 50-seat cube, the 4 walls adorned with giant projection screens upon which slowed down scenes from obscure films and/or relatively inaccessible visual art pieces are shown not only between sets, but straight through performances. Low couches line every wall, behind low tables with full place settings for those in the audience wish to honor their commitment to the $10 minimum with food. In the particular cases of Jaymay and the ukulele-toting Michael Leviton (her supporting act), the stage (or lack thereof) consisted of only a modest chair, a lonely looking boom stand, a few tuning pedals, and a mostly-unused 8 channel mixer, awkwardly clustered together in the center of the room.
There are no spotlights. When the house lights go down and the performer begins to play, they are lit only by the light coming off the projection screens. If it's a dark scene on the screen then it's dark in the room; there's only the music.
Both performers commented on the almost-uncomfortable intimacy of the space. Sitting or standing in the middle of the room, one can clearly see every face in front of them, and is painfully aware of the other half of the audience staring intently at one's back. The intimacy wasn't only unnerving for the performers, however. I wouldn't have dreamed in a million years of pulling my camera out, and nobody else in the audience seemed anxious to do so either. All I could do, all any of us could do, was sit and be wowed by Jaymay's first performance in New York since the spring, and her first performance in weeks since an unfortunate but unsurprising battle with food poisoning.
I don't really feel like I can even say any more about the night. I just wish you could have been there.
And despite the fact that it takes a little getting used to, I must recommend you trek out to Monkey Town sometime soon and see a performance. It's a neat space.
You haven't yet completely missed your chance to catch Jaymay while she's in the States either...she'll be at Rockwood Music Hall on 10/4. She's of course also still opening for Jose Gonzales Friday 9/28 (details).
Previously - Jaymay interview.