EmptyFirst Run Features
More famed music clubs would go gently into that good night if their owners knew that they would receive as affectionate a cinematic sendoff as "Wetlands Preserved." Dean Budnick's documentary, subtitled "The Story of an Activist Rock Club," pays loving tribute to one of the most influential New York City music clubs of the past several decades.
The Tribeca institution, founded in 1989 by a Deadhead named Larry Bloch, eventually closed in September 2001 (coincidentally a mere few days after Sept. 11), the victim of such factors as postgentrification rent hikes, repressive law-enforcement crackdowns and changing musical tastes. But in its heyday, the environmentally and activist minded music hall managed to present a who's who of jam-oriented performers, many of whom soon graduated to theaters, arenas and stadiums. The partial list of headliners includes, among many others, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, Blues Traveler, Phish, Spin Doctors, Sublime and Joan Osborne.
The film essentially consists of a series of interview snippets in which the owners, employees and many of its performers amusingly provide their perspectives on the club's idiosyncratic attributes, from its use of recycled and environmentally friendly products to its encouragement of lengthy sets lasting until the wee hours of the morning to its refusal to elevate the stage in order to bring the performers closer to the audience.
Although it suffers from a lack of compelling live-performance footage that would have made its impression more indelible, visual liveliness is introduced into the proceedings via brief animated interludes to generally good effect.