Anyone with access to the Sundance Channel should point their remotes there this week as they premier Dean Budnick’s documentary on the rise and fall of one of the jam scene’s most important locations, Wetlands Preserve. Budnick, co-creator of the Jammys and Editor at both Relix and Jambands.com, teamed up with club owner Peter Shapiro to tell their side of the story of one of the most tragic victims of then-mayor of New York City Rudolph Giuliani’s “cleaning up” of lower Manhattan. The film depicts the opening of the club as a labor of love for activist and Deadhead Larry Block, expands upon the epic and intimate sets played by Phish, Blues Traveler and Warren Haynes among others, then laments its eventual demise due to gentrification. The film remains fairly objective and tells an accurate story, rooted in environmental activism and positive alternatives in the music scene of the late nineties. The list of bands that played the club is staggering considering all of them were in their prime and sacrificed big pay days to play to the most receptive crowds ever assembled. For any jam fan, this is a must for nostalgic reasons and an absolute requirement to ensure the spirit of activism does not fall to commercialism.
The Sundance Channel is taking the environmental angle on this film, as it plays an immensely important role in the shaping of the club. But what surprised me so much about Wetlands Preserved is that it hosted such a varied palate of music that its moniker as a jam haven is so incomplete. It will always be remembered as a jam bar, but there have to be a lot of people out there that remember the joint as punk club for straight-edge kids and a venue for experimental hip-hop. And some of the most exciting nights happened when these genres blended together for a unique togetherness that is often missed at festivals that try to match demographics with ticket sales.
As part of THE GREEN, Sundance Channel presents a series of documentary films focusing on timely and pressing environmental issues of the day.
From 1989 to 2001, Wetlands Preserve in Tribeca was one of New York’s most celebrated rock clubs, where it famously fused cutting-edge music with environmental activism. It’s now credited with giving birth to the modern jam-band scene and launching the careers of Dave Matthews, Blues Traveler and Phish. Relix Magazine editor and filmmaker Dean Budnick chronicles the environmentally friendly club’s legend with rare vintage concert footage and accounts from the club’s former owners, rock critics, musicians and club regulars.
Be sure to check out nuggets like how the Spin Doctors changed their entire sound to get a gig at Wetlands and the napkin contracts that would be laughable in today’s context. Times are below, but be sure to check back to the Sundance website for up to date times. Get your TiVo s*** together, man.
July 1 10:10PM
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July 21 4:15PM