See more of the story

They became some of the hippest and most lauded rock bands of the 2000s, but the New York City acts featured in "Meet Me in the Bathroom" come off surprisingly uncool in this inspiring new rock doc. That makes them and this movie a lot more likable.

One of the lead films in the Twin Cities' 23rd annual Sound Unseen festival — opening Wednesday and running through Sunday — the nearly two-hour documentary is essentially a series of overlapping vignettes about eight NYC bands of the early 2000s. You probably downloaded many 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 ties these bands together in "MMITB," based on a book of the same name by journalist Lizzy Goodman. There's also a shared sense of them being arty misfits and anxious loners who bonded via the sprawling cityscape. This was right before New York would be forever changed by the Sept. 11 attacks, and before well-heeled hipsters took over Brooklyn — a gentrification that these bands inadvertently helped spawn.

They partied, sure. But a lot of the behind-the-scenes footage in the movie shows these musicians struggling, coping, working hard and thinking even harder. Some of them arguably overthink rock 'n' roll.

Even Strokes singer Julian Casablancas — who seemingly epitomized New York Cool with his dad running a top model agency — comes off as an insular nervous Nellie. The same goes for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' supposedly fearless Karen O, who had sexism to dread along with the hassles of sudden fame. LCDS leader James Murphy also goes all deer-in-the-headlights when his band takes off almost accidentally.

Their stories are very different. TV on the Radio's is sadly under-told. Interpol actually doesn't have much of a story at all, but its performance clips are among the best in the film.

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

(SU screening with author Lizzy Goodman is sold out, 7:30 p.m. Wed., Parkway Theater, Mpls.; more added at The Main Cinema, Mpls., nightly through Nov. 15; also showing Tue. & Wed. nights at Alamo Drafthouse Woodbury and Emagine's Eagan, Plymouth and White Bear Lake theaters.)

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

'Friday I'm in Love'

The Texas metropolis that gave us "Urban Cowboy" and Sen. Ted Cruz, Houston has also long been a big and diverse enough city to boast thriving nightlife and a strong LGBTQ community. Those latter traits converged in the 1980s and '90s at Numbers, a First Avenue-like nightclub that became a hub for dance music and dance-centric alternative rock acts like Erasure and Ministry. The club's tumultuous history is told in this sometimes hilarious, sometimes maddening documentary, ultimately a broader tribute to how pop and rock music has helped stamp out homophobia. (9:30 p.m. Sat., Bryant Lake Bowl)

'The Elephant 6 Recording Co.'

With Neutral Milk Hotel's oddball masterpiece "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" being the one album from the Elephant 6 label that actually achieved success, you can imagine how weird the rest of the music was on the Athens, Ga., ultra-indie imprint in the 1990s. Famed music video director Lance Bangs helped produce this loving portrait of the psychedelic pop and folk-rock label and all its participants, which also included the Apples in Stereo, Of Montreal, Elf Power and others who chose fun over fame. (7:15 p.m. Sat., the Main Cinema)

'Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On'

Partly a tribute to a semi-forgotten music hero like "Searching for Sugar Man" and partly a survivor's story like "Tina," this fascinating new documentary produced with PBS' "American Masters" series spotlights the Canadian American singer/songwriter who became one of the first Native musicians to cross over into the mainstream, and one of too many '60s-'70s musical activists to be monitored by the FBI. Joni Mitchell and Robbie Robertson are among those who sing her praises. (1:15 p.m. Sun., the Main Cinema)

'Quantum Cowboys'

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

Sound Unseen

When: Wed.-Sun., times vary.

Where: Parkway Theater, Trylon Cinema, the Main Cinema and other venues.

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