Meet Me in the Bathroom15
There are periods when a number of bands seemingly appear at the same time in a certain locale, creating something known as a bit of ‘scene’.
It’s a fairly woolly term, and is often the case in music journalism quite a lazy one, but these ‘scenes’ have genuinely appeared.
To prove it, this documentary from directors Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace, based on Lizzy Goodman’s 2017 book of the same name, captures the birth of a music scene, that took place in NYC in the early 2000’s.
Popping up in 1985 in the East Village in New York City was the music venue known as The SideWalk Cafe. It was to become the perfect venue to showcase emerging talent, one of whom where The Moldy Peaches, who performed there in 1999.
But it turns out they weren’t alone, as a number of musicians within the neighbourhood had talent too, that lead to the explosion that included The Strokes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol and LCD Soundsystem.
All representing this section of the city on a global scale.
Having directed the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys and Bjork, as well as 2010’s Blur documentary No Distance Left to Run, directors Southern and Lovelace have a proven track record with musical types.
And by adapting Goodman’s book, they have pretty much delivered the cinematic definition of a birth of a music scene. Their film is entirely created out of archive footage, featuring no visual talking heads of any kind, past or present, placing you very much in that moment of time.
In doing so you live and breathe the energy that was so evident, with the arrival of so many influential bands within a small space, all hitting a collective appetite from an audience, all at once. The result, which was heavily guitar influenced, indie rock, made stars out of The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who quickly went on to become international stars, who all feature in their own words.
This film captures their meteoric rise, which swiftly took its toll on all those concerned, for a ‘scene’ that struggled to live out a decade.
And much like the ‘scene’ itself, the film runs out of steam towards the end, offering very little by which of a reason for the short lived nature of the bands concerned, other than a flimsy offering of gentrification of the neighbourhood, that doesn’t make sense, especially as many of the bands had gone global by that point.
Still, the archive footage proves wholly fascinating, no doubt more so if you’re a fan of any of the bands involved, especially some truly bizarre footage of Courtney Love hosting a 24 hour live MTV studio feed that includes members of The Strokes falling asleep in a bed in the background. Crazy kids.
It may not be a definitive look at the lifespan of a ‘scene’, but it certainly captures its conception with some considerable skill.