Documentary Meet Me in the Bathroom rewinds to the NYC indie rock surge of the early 2000s

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The Strokes are one of the bands covered in Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace’s documentary Meet Me in the Bathroom. // Photo courtesy Rebecca Greenfield/Utopia/Showtime/Vice

Born of grime, crime, and great times, the indie rock scene of the early 2000s were the spawning ground for a generation’s musical touchstones. Now that period of spark and edge are forever captured and celebrated in a new documentary from filmmakers Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace.

Meet Me in the Bathroom documents the rise (and occasional fall) of the musicians and bands that appeared on a whim overnight in Brooklyn or Williamsburg, and then spread to the world like a cultural pandemic.

The film works from period footage that freezes groups like The Strokes, The Rapture, and Interpol in their earliest forms. Interviews, show footage, and of course audio recordings all come from the period between 1999 and the mid-2000s, as captured by those who were there, with scant modern reflection on the moments within. It’s a documentation of a time and place, with love held for the place and reverence for the time.

Framed in large part by the perspective of The Moldy Peaches, the film begins by capturing the life of dirt poor rockers making indie recordings at a period on the cusp of NYC becoming akin to Seattle in the 90s. The Strokes begin to conquer the world, and everyone in the local scene—whether by choice or proximity—begins to rise with them.

For fans of the post-rock indie hits from Liars and TV on the Radio, this is a delightful trip into the past, with incredibly kick-ass recordings from early shows. The interviews themselves are occasionally scattered, but that’s what is to be expected from rock stars when they’re pre-media training… and oft fucked up,  as the title implies.

A few major themes permeate the documentary, most notably a message about shooting your shot. Many of the groups featured seem to have self-funded (or straight up bullshitted) their way into the opportunities that launched their career. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in particular drunkenly bragged about her group to the right person at a house party, and wound up with a first gig opening in NYC for The White Stripes. James Murphy’s first gig for LCD Soundsystem winds up being a UK gig with a band assembled from drinking buddies, wherein Murphy’s biggest concern as a novice frontman is that he’ll be distractingly unsure what to do with his hands on stage.

A major inciting incident for this push off the cliff’s edge stems from the city’s most disastrous event. 1999 and 2000 see these musicians partying their brains out, and living high off an artistic dream. Then there’s 9/11. In the wake, a large chunk of the featured players dedicated their entire lives to trying to succeed at the rockstar dream, because what if you died tomorrow? The spirit of full dedication as trauma response thrusts many of these players into a ride or die contract with a lifestyle, yielding tremendously joyous and/or catastrophic results.

Meet Me in the Bathroom plays one night only in KC—tonight at Screenland Armour. It arrives on streaming later this month.

Categories: Music