Watch ‘Wetlands Preserved: The Story of an Activist Nightclub’ with Bob Weir, Phish, The Roots and More

February 21, 2020
Watch ‘Wetlands Preserved: The Story of an Activist Nightclub’ with Bob Weir, Phish, The Roots and More

New York City nightclub Wetlands Preserve opened its doors in February 1989. To mark the anniversary, today we are sharing the documentary film, Wetlands Preserved: The Story of an Activist Rock Club on the Relix Channel. Relix editor Dean Budnick directed Wetlands Preserved, which premiered at Manhattan’s Ziegfeld Theater in 2006. It then screened at a number of festivals, including SXSW, Woodstock, Santa Barbara and Breckenridge and Asheville, where it won Best Documentary. The film opened theatrically in Los Angeles and New York before airing on the Sundance Channel.

The New York Times offered a rave review, which stated in part, “Crammed with colorful interviews, digital animation and live performances, this frisky and forthright film by Dean Budnick chronicles a vision of financing social progress with really great tunes.” Variety commended the documentary’s “Lively, anecdotal reminiscences, plentiful photographs and archival mementos bear(ing) keen witness to the wide spectrum of music that found a forum at Wetlands.” The Austin Chronicle offered, “Watching Wetlands Preserved, it’s hard not to appreciate the idealism and unbridled optimism of an activist nightclub that survived in New York City for more than 10 years before being beaten down by Mayor Giuliani and rampant gentrification.” Indiewire added that Wetlands Preserved “Portrays a critical moment in recent music history, and is a tribute to a club that closed prematurely on September 10, 2001.”

Wetlands Preserved: The Story of an Activist Rock Club

Archival footage, soundboard recordings and the work of a dozen digital animators help to relate the story of celebrated Tribeca nightclub Wetlands Preserve. The venue gave an early home to artists such as Phish, Dave Matthews Band, Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, Widespread Panic, The Roots, moe., Gov’t Mule, Guster, 311, Robert Randolph, Soulive, The Disco Biscuits, all of whom appear in the film along with Bob Weir, Robert Hunter, Derek Trucks, Oteil Burbridge, Joe Russo, Darius Rucker and many others.  Wetlands was not solely a music venue, as the club simultaneously supported a social and environmental activism center.

Larry and Laura Bloch founded the venue, which opened in February 1989, then sold it to 23-year-old Peter Shapiro in 1996. Shapiro ran Wetlands until the club finally closed in September 2001 (he would go on to own Brooklyn Bowl, Capitol Theater, LOCKN’ and currently serves as Relix publisher and as HeadCount’s Chairman of the Board of Directors.). The signature Wetlands bus currently sits in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,

The documentary, which draws exclusively on music recorded at the club, also features songs from Sublime, Pearl Jam, Ani DiFranco, Ben Harper, Michael Franti & Spearhead 311, KRS-1, Joan Osborne, Agnostic Front and Fishbone.

Directed and co-produced by Dean Budnick

Edited and filmed by Jonathan Healey

Executive Producer Robert Difazio

Co-Executive Producers John Turk & Karol Martesko for RES Media Group 

Producer Peter Shapiro

Associate Producer Justin Bolognino

Audio Archivist Jesse Jarnow

Still Photography Steve Eichner & Mike McNamara

In 2001, shortly after the final night at Wetlands, long before he began work on the film Budnick wrote a Relix article on the closing night. He recently described his encounter with Robert Hunter on that evening. His 2016 “Relix Conversation” with The Disco Biscuits Aron Magner and The New Deal’s Jamie Shields touched on the Wetlands legacy. An interview with cinematographer/editor Jonathan Healey can be found on