Louie, The Association, and Geo Wyeth
Date posted: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Weekly picks from the office.
Editor’s note: Welcome to “Flavor of the Week,” a new feature where, every Wednesday, we recommend stories, books, articles, poems, films, videos, events, activities, and more and more and more.
Louis C.K., Louie
It would be unfair of me to recommend Louis C.K.’s national comedy tour, which is currently showing twice nightly at New York City Center until Sunday, and which I saw on Monday night. Unfair, because after C.K. devised a way to make all tickets available for $45 back in June, the tour sold out in days.
Instead, I’ll recommend his incredible television series Louie, which just wrapped up its third season on FX on September 27th. As C.K. has announced that season four will not premier until the spring of 2014, you have plenty of time to catch up.
By now you’ve probably heard of Louie, and the unprecedented artistic freedom Louis C.K. has with the series. You’ve probably read the lavish reviews, or heard about the Emmy the series has earned. If you have not seen the series by now, watch it. Season three was the most mature yet, with C.K. tackling issues such as intimate friendships between straight men, attempted reconciliations with estranged relatives, and taking on tasks that you’re almost sure to fail but have every responsibility to try for. Let me be clear: when I say C.K. “tackles” these issues, I do not mean that each episode crescendos with a moment of revelation, though some do. “Tackling an issue” for Louie sometimes means driving your motorcycle to the nearest ocean, hopping in a speed boat, and steering as fast as you can away from it.
And one more thing: Louie has favorably and fairly been compared to Lena Dunham’s HBO comedy series Girls. One major difference, and one worth pointing out here, is that while Dunham has claimed that the reason for the lack of diversity on her show is that she simply does not feel that she can write an authentic character of color, Louis C.K. met that “challenge” by casting the phenomenal actress Susan Kelechi Watson to play his ex-wife and co-parent in the third season. Episode 11, “Late Show: Part 2,” opens with an extended take of Louie and his ex-wife Janet conversing in a restaurant. The tension in the scene mounts beautifully, showcasing Louis C.K.’s formidable skills as a writer, as well as C.K. and Watson’s skillful acting. Such a long, quiet scene is a big risk for a 30 minute long comedic television episode, but the scene justifies itself. That a strongly written, brilliantly acted woman of color carries the scene isn’t beside the point, but it’s not the whole point, either.
—Justin Sherwood, Associate Editor
NBA TV’s The Association
You might not have heard of this program. In fact, you might not have even heard about the network on which it airs (NBA TV). The simplest way to explain The Association is that it is the NBA’s answer to HBO’s Hard Knocks. This year, the program follows the newly-christened Brooklyn Nets as they compete during their inaugural year in the Barclays Center. More than just a new set of black-and-white uniforms, the Nets have a completely restructured roster and hope to make the sort of transformation that rarely happens in modern-day professional sports: jumping from forgettable losers into serious contenders in the span of one season. Although they missed out on the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, the Nets did re-sign point guard Deron Williams and added some offensive firepower with the acquisition of shooting guard Joe Johnson (formerly of the Atlanta Hawks). With a whole host of other off-season moves, it should be interesting to watch this team gel and to evaluate whether or not coach Avery Johnson can make this paper tiger a legitimate force on the floor. If nothing else, you might want to tune in since this season is hosted and narrated by Brooklyn-native Michael K. Williams—who is better-known as Omar in The Wire or Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire.
—Mike Dell’Aquila, Contributing Editor
Geo Wyeth, Singer/Songwriter/Performer
When it comes to live music, there’s nothing worse than a stiff performance, one where musicians are nervous, inhibited, or so clearly bored of their own routine that they are going through the motions without actually feeling it. Sometimes the music still sounds good, but it’s no fun to watch, because a live show is meaningless if it doesn’t add another dimension to the recordings we listen to at home. Concerts allow us to participate in the creative process (presumably fueling the artistic energy), hear the raw sounds we miss in the studio productions, see musicians in direct contact with their art, and ideally, watch them taken over by it. Finding a performer so possessed by their music that it becomes an outer experience (see Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same) is priceless, and when we do, it can become addicting.
I had this experience when I discovered Geo Wyeth, a New York City-based transgender singer songwriter, who used to perform under the name Novice Theory. I first saw Wyeth at the now-out-of-business Zipper Factory—a theater in Hell’s Kitchen comprised entirely of abandoned car seats—in 2008. I went because he was a friend of a friend, and before the show (after we’d already bought the tickets), that friend had sent me a link to his MySpace page, and I remember being completely underwhelmed. I went in expecting nothing, which is probably the best way to go see anything.
Wyeth wore a white button-down shirt with the sleeves ripped off, under a black vest, over a pair of black, knee-length cutoffs. He looked like one of the Lost Boys. He came out from between the aisles playing an accordion and singing, and to use a cheesy line from an old movie, “he had [us] at hello.” He jumped on stage and stood before us. As he sang, his head rolled, his eyes closed, and though he was clearly eating up the energy we were feeding him, he seemed completely oblivious to anything but the music. The voice that had seemed so flat and dull to me on his MySpace account enraptured the entire auditorium. Aside from the accordion (which he only used during a couple of songs) he also plays the guitar, harmonica, and piano during his shows. When he’s at the keys, he absolutely kills it, pounding over them, moving his body, his spit going everywhere as he sings. That concert was pure musical theater and I spent the whole hour-and-a-half wishing it would never end. After that, I saw him eight or nine times in less than two years, and his album, “At the End We Listen,” became the unofficial soundtrack to my life.
Eventually (I can’t remember the year), Wyeth stopped performing as Novice Theory and joined a band. I didn’t dig it as much, and stopped going to his shows. This week (a few years later), I was wondering about him, and found out that he’d come out with his first full-length album (Animal Tales) this summer, and that he’s on an international tour. Though I can’t imagine that anything will ever compare, in my mind, to what he did as Novice Theory, I think I’m ready to get back into him, and want to encourage you, dear readers, to check him out.
—Masha Udensiva-Brenner, Editor[pinit]