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Sundance 2022: ‘Meet Me in the Bathroom’ (Review)

The news first broke in late 2017 that Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock & Roll in NYC 2001-2011 would be adapted into a four-part docuseries by Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern, the directorial duo behind the LCD Soundsystem concert documentary ‘Shut Up and Play the Hits.’

The best-selling book named after a song by The Strokes chronicled the rise of New York City’s music scene in the wake of 9/11.

By the summer of 2001, I was three years out of college and had become Music Director and on-air DJ at the legendary WOXY-FM (aka “97X…BAM! The Future of Rock and Roll“) in southwestern Ohio. Our listeners loved British bands and music from overseas, but this new batch of upstart bands from NYC were a hit on the air and The Strokes were actually our third most played artists of 2001 even though their full-length album didn’t get released until the fall because we had the original Rough Trade single for “The Modern Age” and “Last Nite” in rotation all year. These memories had me primed and ready to check this film out during its Sundance premiere.

For their documentary adaptation of Goodman’s book, Lovelace and Southern ditched the series approach for a 105-minute feature film that actually goes back slightly earlier, beginning with Y2K hysteria and illustrating the seeds of the scene with the forming of The Moldy Peaches and The Strokes earning a Mercury Lounge residency in 2000 that helped take them to the next level.

The film is packed with archival footage, much of it shot on consumer-grade video cameras and is frequently shaky as all hell. At times it can be hard to watch (I was cheering every time we actually went to professionally shot concert scenes or interviews from television), but the authenticity of what fans and band members originally captured only adds to the “I was there” rawness.

The Strokes conflicted about performing live on MTV in early 2002 as featured in ‘Meet Me in the Bathroom’

‘Meet Me in the Bathroom’ lends its primary focus to The Strokes, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and LCD Soundsystem, but also features The Rapture and TV On The Radio in addition to Liars and the aforementioned Moldy Peaches.

It’s really fun to revisit these days with the ability to watch the bands in their infancy and see their struggles before the success hit. And then, in most cases, dealing with the newfound fame and wondering if it was all worth it. For a band like The Strokes, even after two decades, it feels like they still exist in that back-and-forth.

Even though we’ve all seen it before, one of the most magical moments to me was the decision to feature the Yeah Yeah Yeahs video for “Maps” almost in its entirety and seemingly restored straight off the originally shot film negative with the sprocket holes exposed. The image is exceptionally sharp (way more so than in the ‘remastered’ version on YouTube) and reminds us all of the genuine power and incredible artistry of Karen O.

Lovelace and Southern deliver a lot of unseen footage and unearthed some killer footage to put this musical moment in time into context, but it does feel like it could have been less scattershot had it actually been expanded into a longer series.

Meet Me in the Bathroom‘ had its premiere at Sundance this week and is seeking distribution.

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