The Dream of the 2000s Is Alive in the Meet Me in the Bathroom Documentary

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Based on the hit 2017 oral history, the film brings us back to the days when the Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and LCD Soundsystem ruled New York.

Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O circa 2004. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

It’s August 1999, and a young man dressed like Robin Hood and a young woman wearing pink bunny ears are grinning widely as they sing a little ditty about orange juice and botulism. A dude pogoes awkwardly in their midst onstage; afterward, a hat is passed around. The scene, featuring anti-folk oddballs Adam Green and Kimya Dawson of the Moldy Peaches, might not sound like the beginnings of any kind of revolution. But appearing early in the new documentary Meet Me in the Bathroom, the endearingly idiosyncratic performance hints at a creative freedom and communal spirit that would soon turn New York City’s Lower East Side and Williamsburg neighborhoods into the hot zone for a rock’n’roll revival.

Premiering this week at Sundance, the film is based on Lizzy Goodman’s 2017 book chronicling the city’s early-millennium rock boom (she also executive produced). The sprawling, 600-page oral history would be all but impossible to condense into a single feature, so directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern narrow their focus to mainly just the first few years of the 2000s, and only a handful of representative bands: the Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol, TV on the Radio, the Rapture, and LCD Soundsystem, along with early scene linchpins the Moldy Peaches. And the film relies solely on archival footage and audio, without any talking-head shots to break the nostalgia. The result helps demystify an often-mythologized era in a way that could inspire some future assemblage of talented misfits to start their own movement. Another plus: The music, pretty uniformly, rips.

For a scene almost instantly saddled with unrealistic expectations, Meet Me in the Bathroom reinforces the role of serendipity. Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O lived across the street from Sidewalk Cafe, the former Avenue A institution that welcomed the Moldy Peaches, who opened for the Strokes on their first UK tour. Part of the documentary’s charm is seeing the pre-fame Strokes light up a bar with their shot-fueled charisma, or witnessing Karen O’s transformation, after four margaritas, into one of rock’s most commanding performers.

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