Larry Bloch was an accidental nightclub impresario. In the late 80’s, with no nightclub, live music or even bar experience, he decided to stick his nose, and his singular vision into the “Greed Is Good” ground zero of downtown Manhattan. His plan was to open a hippie “bar” that also helped spread the word about environmental and social justice activism isues. What he birthed was a live music juggernaut that catered to and helped to create the new wave of JamBands that included Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, Phish and Dave Matthews Band. And, funded a full time Activism Center. As Chris Barron singer of the Spin Doctors said in the documentary “Wetlands Preserved”:
“Wetlands changed the type of music a lot of bands were making around that time because we had to cater our music to be the type of style that would allow us to get booked there.”
That’s a stunning remark to come from one of the “architects” of that music scene. Usually a live music club functions as an incubator for bands – let’s them plan and try to find an audience. Wetlands opened and attracted and audience and forced bands to cater to them in order to get booked. Soon after, Wetlands widened its welcoming wings to become a New York City home for Funk, Reggae, Folk, Punk, Hardcore, Hip Hop and Electronic Music as well.
And that’s just the music part of it. Larry literally put the club’s money where his mouth was. The Activism Center wasn’t something that got funded if there happened to be left over profits from the club. The Activism Center was treated as a necessary expense! This Activism Center had some signifigant victories such as convincing the NY Times to cancel their contract with the paper supplier MacMillan Blodell who had been clearcutting Canadian rainforests.
The thing we saw with Wetlands, which we haven’t seen in another live music club since, is that it created a “scene.” It was a place where people would come on any night of the week, regardless of who was playing, to find good music and other like minded people. The East Village had CBGB and Coney Island High which were for the whiskey and speed set. Wetlands was home to the MicroBrews and Marijuana heads.
When New York City lost Wetlands, it didn’t just lose a place for bands to play, It lost a place that music fans could call, and feel at, HOME. How fitting then that as the strongest Hurricane to ever cross the Northeast Corridor prepares to blow into our city and shuffle things up yet again, that Larry Bloch at this time is rising up into his next plane of being, where he will undoubtedly formulate, actualize, and give birth to a whole new set of dreams.
“We Labor To Birth Our Dance With The Earth”
Be Seeing You.
Jake Szufnarowski worked and lived at Wetlands Preserve from 1994 until it’s closing in 2001. He began as Larry Bloch’s assistant and then served as Talent Buyer from 1999-2001.