‘Meet Me in the Bathroom’ and 4 other films to see/hear in Sound Unseen fest

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They became one of the hottest and best-loved rock bands of the 2000s, but the New York artists featured in “Meet Me in the Bathroom” are surprisingly uncool in this inspiring new rock documentary. It makes them, and this movie, much more likable.

One of the seminal films of Twin Cities’ 23rd annual Sound Unseen festival — opening Wednesday and Sunday — the nearly two-hour documentary is essentially a series of overlapping vignettes of eight New York bands from the early 2000s. You’ve probably downloaded plenty of them onto your iPods, including the Strokes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem, Interpol, TV on the Radio and the Moldy Peaches.

Proximity isn’t all that connects these groups in “MMITB,” based on a book of the same name by journalist Lizzy Goodman. There’s also a shared sense that they’re arty misfits and anxious loners who have bonded via the sprawling cityscape. It was just before New York was forever changed by the attacks of 9/11, and before well-heeled hipsters took over Brooklyn – a gentrification that these groups inadvertently helped bring about.

They partied, of course. But much of the film’s behind-the-scenes footage shows these musicians struggling, coping, working hard and thinking even harder. Some of them probably think too much about rock ‘n’ roll.

Even Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas – who apparently portrayed New York Cool with his father who ran a top modeling agency – comes across as a jittery islander Nellie. The same goes for Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ supposedly fearless Karen O, who had sexism to dread as well as the hassles of sudden fame. LCDS frontman James Murphy also becomes a deer in the headlights when his band almost accidentally takes off.

Their stories are very different. Television on the radio is sadly underrated. Interpol doesn’t actually have a lot of history, but its performance clips are some of the best in the film.

Combined, the adventures of these bands highlight the synergy and snowball effect a local music scene can have on rock bands even once they go global. New York being the backdrop for this particular scene makes for a more extreme example.

(SU screening with author Lizzy Goodman: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Parkway Theater, Mpls., $13; also showing Tuesday and Wednesday nights at the Alamo Drafthouse Woodbury and Emagine’s Eagan Theaters, Plymouth and White Bear Lake.)

Here are four other films recommended in this year’s Sound Unseen lineup. As always, screenings are spread across various independent locations around Minneapolis. Some include discussions with the filmmakers, after-parties and/or a live music counterpart. Check out the full schedule at soundunseen.com.

‘Friday I’m in love’

The Texas metropolis that gave us “Urban Cowboy” and Senator Ted Cruz, Houston has also long been a city large and diverse enough to boast a thriving nightlife and strong LGBTQ community. These latter traits converged in the 1980s and 1990s at Numbers, a First Avenue-style nightclub that became a hub for dance music and dance-centric alternative rock bands like Erasure and Ministry. The club’s tumultuous history is told in this sometimes hilarious, sometimes infuriating documentary, ultimately a broader tribute to how pop and rock music helped eradicate homophobia. (9:30 p.m. Saturday, Bryant Lake Bowl)

‘The Elephant 6 Recording Co.’

With Neutral Milk Hotel’s bizarre masterpiece “In the Airplane Over the Sea” being the only album from the Elephant 6 label that actually achieved success, you can imagine how bizarre the rest of the music was on the album. ultra-indie imprint of Athens, Georgia. in the 1990s. Acclaimed music video director Lance Bangs helped produce this loving portrait of the psychedelic pop and folk-rock label and all of its participants, which also included Apples in Stereo, Of Montreal, Elf Power and others who chose pleasure over fame. (7:15 p.m. Sat., main cinema)

‘Buffy Sainte-Marie: carry on’

Part tribute to a half-forgotten musical hero like ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ and part story of a survivor like ‘Tina’, this riveting new documentary produced with PBS’ ‘American Masters’ series puts spotlight the Canadian-American singer/songwriter who became one of the first Indigenous musicians to enter the mainstream, and one of too many music activists from the 1960s-70s to be watched by the FBI. Joni Mitchell and Robbie Robertson are among those singing his praises. (1:15 p.m. Sun., main cinema)

“Quantum Cowboys”

X’s John Doe and twang-pop mega-singer Neko Case are among the cast of this quirky, music-filled feature that’s an old-school western wrapped in innovative new animation techniques. We don’t have to worry about musicians-turned-actors quitting their night jobs, but we can hear them provide a cool musical accompaniment to the catchy visual storytelling, including desert sounds from Howe Gelb and Xixa as well. (5 p.m. Sunday, Parkway Theater, with Case and director Geoff Marslett Q&A)

sound unseen

When: From Wednesday to Sunday, the hours vary.

Where: Parkway Theatre, Trylon Cinema, Main Cinema and other locations.

Tickets: Screenings $13, virtual pass $40, soundunseen.com.

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