For over a decade, The Wetlands was renowned as one of the hottest venues in New York City, a place where upcoming bands performed music outside the mainstream, at least at the time. The former Chinese restaurant may not have been the most comfortable place to see a show, but from February 1989 until September 10, 2001, many of the world’s finest musicians held court on this famed stage before the venue was prematurely closed by the collapse of the neighboring twin towers on 9-11.
Three bands from the northeast that helped form the original HORDE tour – Blues Traveler, Phish, and the Spin Doctors – played integral roles in the venues early years. Performances from each band are featured in the DVD, along with performances from the Dave Matthews Band, The Disco Biscuits, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, moe., 311, Ben Harper, Project Logic, Frogwings, and more. There is even an all too brief appearance by Pearl Jam, who graced the stage at the Wetlands during their early days, as well as bonus live performances from the venue’s last show, featuring Warren Haynes, Mike Gordon, Stanley Jordan, and DJ Logic.
Given the treasure trove of high quality footage, the only downside of Wetlands Preserved: The Story Of An Activist Nightclubis the fact that filmmaker Dean Budnick opts to spend the majority of the 96-minute film focusing on interview and backstage moments, not live performances. The hour of unreleased backstage footage includes P Diddy’s confrontation with The Roots drummer ?uestlove; owner Larry Bloch’s conflicts with Oasis and the Dylan family; behind the scenes footage with Sublime; and interviews with jam band favorites such as Bob Weir, Derek Trucks, John Medeski, Dave Matthews, and Warren Haynes.
While the unreleased footage is priceless and tells the story well, the Wetlands was inspired by the music. Given that fact, it would be nice to see more live performances featured in the film. That minor complaint aside, give Wetlands Preserved: The Story Of An Activist Nightclub a spin in your DVD player, and you sure to be entertained, if not downright fascinated.
Wetlands Preserved: The Story Of An Activist Nightclub is available now from First Run Features.