Meet Me in the Bathroom is a nostalgic ode to New York’s early 2000s rock renaissance. The documentary follows an eclectic selection of bands through the rejuvenation of the city’s desolate music scene. Directors Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace assemble a collage of archival footage from The Moldy Peaches, The Strokes, The Rapture, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and LCD Soundsystem among other names of the day. The scene is best described as a pretentious, East Coast reaction to the early 90’s grunge facilitated by a new generation of eager indie kids.
The film opens with home footage of The Moldy Peaches frontmen Adam Green and Kimya Dawson in their dingy studio apartment as they bombard their unsuspecting neighbors with noise from a barely-constructed song. Transitioning from these small two-person sessions to playing in front of thousands in Brooklyn parking lots, the film chronicles the Peaches espousing the new folk-centric sound that was grossly overabundant in the albums and soundtracks of the time.
We then move from The Peaches to private school phenomenon The Strokes. Although strongly aided by the preeminence of Julian Casablanca’s infamous father, the band's near-immediate success dominates the documentary narrative for nearly the entire first half of the film. Despite their desire to be non-normative, the pop-rock-esque melodies and commercial appeal made them the quintessential indie pop sensation. Their struggle to engage with this newly-acquired popularity shines in their efforts to create a second record that one-ups their first. Ultimately failing to do so, their fast-arriving fans dwindled even faster.
Shifting from the indie boy paradigm, the rise of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs catapults Karen O, their frontwoman, into the scene’s limelight. Revitalizing the aura of angry girl-punk, Karen O drew influence from the likes of Courtney Love to inform her image as a frontwoman in a scene that celebrates and encourages hypermasculinity. These pressures of male dominance forced her to leave the band, ending the career of one of the most promising female voices of the time.
Perhaps one of the most impactful parts of the film features James Murphy and his rise to fame from production to performance. Although most of the documentary lacks any cohesive plot, Murphy’s story takes up more of a narrative form. Beginning as a sound engineer for The Rapture, as one of the scene’s youngest talents, Murphy explored the ever-changing world of digital production.
After The Rapture’s departure from Murphy’s totalitarian production style, Murphy spent more time experimenting with and recording his own music. Rising in popularity within the niche corners of the scene, Murphy’s project was demanded worldwide. The need for bandmates and a name quickly turned Murphy’s solo adventure into what we now know as LCD Soundsystem.
Ultimately, Meet Me in the Bathroom lacked any sense of a consistent plot or structure. Instead, acting as a broad vignette of New York City’s emerging music scene, the film provides a raw look into what made this era so impactful. The film is still nostalgic and fun, as it wonderfully displays these great bands at the height of their careers.