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“Meet Me in the Bathroom” is a love letter to rock, New York and the early 2000s

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The documentary premiered at the IFC Center on November 3rd and will be available to stream on Showtime on November 29th.

A still from the documentary “Meet in the Bathroom”. The film is a tribute to three rock bands based in New York at the turn of the century. (Courtesy of Utopia)

New York was home to some of the most influential bands of the 20th century, including The Velvet Underground, The Ramones and Blondie. At the turn of the 21st century, the city gave way to a rock renaissance led by The Strokes, Interpol and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. “Meet Me in the Bathroom” not only chronicles the explosive success of these three bands, but also the rapidly changing landscape of the music industry and New York City.

Like the rock scene of the 2000s, Meet Me in the Bathroom started small before expanding its scope to embrace the mass appeal of the bands it portrays. The documentary effectively portrays these groups in their infancy. His chosen soundbites and footage contrast sharply with the incredible nature of these bands.

The documentary opens with footage of The Moldy Peaches—a small two-piece band—rehearsing in their cramped apartment and greeting their neighbors. They eventually meet the not-yet-famous Julian Casablancas and his band The Strokes as they drunkenly wreak havoc on the subway at 3am. Meanwhile, Karen Oh and Nick Zinner smoke a cigarette together, brainstorming song ideas for their fledgling band. yes, yes, yes.

“Meet You in the Bathroom” consists almost entirely of never-before-seen footage from the time period it so carefully immerses the audience in. The do-it-yourself cinematography grain never loses its freshness and lends the film an intuitive and nostalgic look at the rough-and-tumble of dive bar gigs in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side. Admittedly, this over-reliance on old footage and soundbites can cause Meet Me in the Bathroom to lose the journalistic capabilities that other documentaries display, instead of feeling like a vague, archival fever dream.

While it may be a stylistically accurate, if not rosy, depiction of the New York rock scene of the early 2000s, it’s fair to say that the documentary loses some clarity and objectivity in its depiction of the musicians and bands featured in it , because of its stylistic boldness of choice. Of course, that’s not to say that “Meet Me in the Bathroom” doesn’t have any meaning, as it takes time to explore the anxieties of band life and New York City life.

At the beginning of the documentary “Meet in the Bathroom”, a shocking, heart-wrenching segment is shown depicting the events of 9/11 and the aftermath in the city. Both the footage and the soundtrack are mind-blowing as viewers watch New Yorkers sift through the ashes as The Moldy Peaches’ Kimia Dawson tears up singing “Anthrax.” This poignant moment is depicted not only for the sake of tragedy, but also to explain how the urban music community created more communal spaces to express their grief through music, and also to explain how the urban music community created more communal spaces to express their grief through music, and their move from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

Meet Me in the Bathroom also slows down to focus on the neuroses of the famous band members it features. It’s interesting to see behind the scenes of the massive success of The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. While Casablancas discusses the ill effects of his relentless perfectionism, as well as his distaste for the “too cool for school” image the media has given him, Karen Oh deals with twisted paparazzi and carries the burden of being the female lead. rock band. While these are compelling stories, they aren’t necessarily unexpected or new given the immense popularity of Casablanca and Karen O.

Stories seem more vivid when they focus on slightly lesser-known figures. Paul Banks constantly tries to prove Interpol’s worth by answering questions about the Dashes; James Murphy struggling to fit into the music community before forming LCD Soundsystem; and Albert Hammond Jr. is too insecure to share his music with the rest of The Strokes.

While Meet in the Bathroom takes time to slow down the adrenaline rush of the concerts to focus on these more tender stories, it doesn’t devote enough time to each story. The documentary’s breezy pace, which often complements its jaw-dropping hilarity, felt like its own worst enemy at these moments.

Meet Me in the Bathroom is by no means a perfect documentary. At times it feels like it prioritizes style over substance, nostalgia over objectivity, and drunken, mind-blowing fun over clear and coherent storytelling. That said, it’s very rare for a documentary to fully immerse viewers in its world and time period—making them feel like they’re in the crowd at an early Interpol concert, or tripping on the subway with The Strokes, or singing along with The Peach Blossoms to their sorry excuse for the apartment. .

Despite varying degrees of success, it’s clear that a lot of care and passion has gone into this project and its distinct storytelling style. As “Meet You in the Bathroom” closes with a rendition of Walt Whitman’s “Give Me The Splendid, Silent Sun” over romantic shots of the city, it’s hard not to feel the same passion and love for rock, New York and the city in the early 2000s.

Contact Ferris Elaraby at [email protected]

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