A time capsule of 2000s indie rock

This review was originally part of our coverage of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

The pitch: Between the apocalyptic buildup of the year 2000 and the existential horror of 9/11, 2000s New York was also home to another seismic shift in American culture: the burgeoning indie-rock scene, where seedy clubs on the Lower East Side hosted performers. like Interpol, The Strokes, The Moldy Peaches and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

It’s the hazy, deafening, sticky beer scene that Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace (who previously directed the documentary LCD Soundsystem Shut up and play the hits) work for Meet me in the bathroomless an adaptation of Lizzy Goodman’s 2017 oral history of the same name than a living companion.

Composed almost entirely of archival footage stitched together by new archival voice-over interviews from many of the parties involved, including Karen O, James Murphy, Paul Banks, and more. Meet me in the bathroom gives you behind-the-scenes access to this whirlwind moment in music history.

Is this: The events gave rise to a new type of rock star, usually descended from the idle wealthy kids and post-punk blue-collar workers of Manhattan in the late 90s: creatively ambitious but socially shy, bristling against the spotlight as fame turned them on. gave even as stars. soared to heavenly heights.

This is where Southern and Lovelace turn most of their gaze, Meet me in the bathroom primarily concerned with bands that rose to fame from the dark, isolated incubator that was New York’s Lower East Side. The Moldy Peaches cheekily throw songs in their studio; Karen O develops her stage persona into the moaning pop-punk diva she had become; The Strokes face a meteoric rise that immediately imposes the label “future of music” on them, with all the pressure that implies.

(A lot of real estate is given over to images of Julian Casablancas, the genius lead singer of The Strokes, shrugging and stepping back from the weight of their stardom: he was silent and shrugged in interviews, his characteristic aloofness reading more like a resignation.)

Their stories are largely disconnected, which is a little frustrating formally; Southern and Lovelace wander from band to band and return as a drunken extrovert at a house party, making it difficult to blend in with any particular band’s background. However, by focusing on how all of these groups respectively progressed during the most fertile years of their musical careers (1999-2004), we see not only how they changed pop culture, but how the world changed. around them.

Sometimes the filmmakers turn away from the groups to remind us that yes, we were all freaked out about Y2K and storing MREs waiting for the apocalypse to come; or that the horrors of 9/11 turned their carefree punk shrugs into a call for humanity. Most haunting is the arrival of Napster and the mp3 craze, a phenomenon that primarily rocks Murphy, a man who spent three decades as a sound engineer (with a controversial but creatively successful collaboration with David Holmes) to see the end of music as he knew it beyond the horizon; he would channel this excessive unease into the disco-synth rhythms of LCD Soundsystem.

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