Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wetlands Preserved

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Rockumentary Recounts Rise and Fall of Earth-Friendly NYC Nightclub

In 1989, Larry and Laura Bloch opened Wetlands Preserve in a rat and roach-infested dive at 161 Hudson Street in lower Manhattan. What made the groundbreaking nightclub different from others located in the seedy section of the city was its eco-friendly orientation, evidenced by a commitment to activist causes ranging from the environment to animal rights. Reviving the spirit of the Sixties’ Woodstock Generation, the Blochs set an anti-corporate social agenda which put humanity and the rest of the planet ahead of profits.
As a result of their seeing people as more than objects to be exploited for contributions to an economic bottom-line, their unorthodox rock club cultivated a counter-cultural clientele while also attracting an eclectic array of performers. Regulars included Blues Traveler, Macy Gray, Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Erykah Badu, Branford Marsalis, Pearl Jam, Hootie & the Blowfish, Jill Scott, Spin Doctors and The Roots. In addition, Wetlands served as a proving ground for up-and-coming unknown bands like Screaming Headless Torsos and The Murder Junkies.
Over the dozen years the place was in business, a portion of its nightly proceeds were donated to various groups aligned with its progressive ideas. Unfortunately, the popular haunt began to slide into a decline when it was targeted for harassment by the Giuliani Administration. During that reign of terror known as “zero tolerance,” the club was ticketed for the slightest of transgressions, even receiving a $50 summons for each poster placed around town by acts booked to appear.
The coup de grace was delivered on 9/11, when the terrorist attack on the nearby World Trade Center altered the landscape of and access to the neighborhood. Part nostalgic remembrance, part rebellious rallying cry, Wetlands Preserved is a fitting tribute to those intrepid souls who dared to try to carve out an altruistic utopian escape right in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a most materialistic metropolis.

Excellent Good (3.5 stars)
Running time: 97 minutes
Studio: First Run Features

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