This year marks the 25th anniversary of Wetlands Preserve, better known as Wetlands, the much-loved music club and activist center that existed at 161 Hudson from 1989 to 2001. The club has hardly been forgotten, with the VW Bus now in the care of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and a 2006 documentary, Wetlands Preserved: The Story of an Activist Rock Club. But now there’s a new, highly entertaining book—Wetlands NYC History: A Visual Encore—created by Laura Bloch Bourque, who created the club with her then husband, Larry Bloch. From the book’s website:
When Larry was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early 2012 he left his collection of Wetlands memorabilia with the strong request that Laura look into producing a book. With a degree in graphic design and a BA in journalism, Laura Bloch Bourque had the skills required. It was through a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds [over $18,000!] to take the book to press that she learned just how much Wetlands lives on in the hearts of both fans and bands.
The main thrust of the book is the 95 calendars that were mailed out every month from 1989 to 1997, when the Internet became a more viable option (the list had grown to more than 12,000 recipients) and Peter Shapiro took over the club. The list of the more than 3,700 performers who played the club is incredible: The “first notable NYC plays” include “Pearl Jam, Counting Crows, Blind Melon, Rage Against the Machine, the Wallflowers, Sublime, Derek Trucks Band (he was 15 years old!), Travis, Incubus, David Grey, Ben Harper, 311, and Oasis.” But it’s even more fun to view the names in calendar form, with the kind of hand-lettering that seems to have been abandoned in recent years.
The book also features over 700 photos, the “eco notes” from the back of the calendars, highlights from the comment cards that patrons filled out, and more. It’s $33, with free shipping until December 1. Order a copy here.
Besides letting me run some sample pages—they’re below, and do click on them to enlarge—Laura answered a few questions via email.
Who designed the calendars?
From the start, Larry demanded that all graphics for the club be hand-done, whenever possible. The calendar art was by….
••• Cheryl Liguori / Feb. 89 – Jan. 90 Cheryl managed to produce the calendar art, while managing a new club.
••• Laura Bloch / Feb. 90 – May 94
••• Glenn Hidalgo / June 94 – Feb. 97 By this time the mass-mailings had stopped and the calendars were photocopied, mostly for in-house and publicity. Glenn also produced all of the Village Voice weekly ads through this time period and for Pete Shapiro’s years. You’ll see these used to show the line-ups for March 1997-Sept 2001.
Most staff members had their hand, at one time or another, in getting these out in a timely manner.
Have you found any surprises as you’ve gone through them all?
Since I produced the calendars for many years there were no real surprises there. While I was looking into where the bands and performers are now I was amazed to see that so many are still doing their thing on a regular basis, saddened by stories of those that have passed or struggling with illness and touched by how many still hold a place in their hearts for the Wetlands’ days (daze?). The real surprise for me was realizing that Larry was right when he said that there was still a lot of love and interest in the original monthly calendars, most from about 20 years ago!
Any especially good comments (from the reader comment cards) that you’d like to share?
“Can I live here?” “Please, save the world.” “Take the Bus on tour.” “Change the name to Wonderlands.” And there were many contradictions: “Please survive.” / “You’re too crowded.” And “Your door dudes are groovy.” / “Get rid of the heavy’s at the door.” And “More DEAD” / “Less DEAD.”
You must have a billion memories from Wetlands, but is there one that stands out as really capturing the essence of the place?
The essence of Wetlands is best captured in the faces of those in the crowd. I’ve tried to put a lot of those shots into the book. No matter what tribe was inhabiting the space on a given night, the people look at home and having fun. This was not the vibe of the nightlife at many of the “hot” venues of the decade where looking blank or unhappy seemed in vogue.