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September 18: Larry Bloch and the Wetlands Preserve

September 17, 2015

Larry Bloch, founder of Wetlands Preserve, a music club dedicated to environmental activism, was born in Philadelphia on this date in 1953. His parents were the owners of Perfect Fit, a bedding products company. Wetlands was launched in 1989 in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. Among the bands that were nurtured there were Phish, Dave Matthews, Joan Osborne, Blues Traveler, and Hootie and the Blowfish. “I started Wetlands with two untapped passions of mine in mind,” said Bloch, who died at 59 in 2012. “One was my desire to entertain people, and the other was my desire to be an activist and an environmentalist.” The club included “a dark lounge full of beat-up furniture called the Inner Sanctum,” writes James C. McKinley, Jr. in the New York Times. “There Mr. Bloch held weekly political gatherings, known as Eco-Saloon sessions, to discuss topics like animal rights and the destruction of the rain forest. He used a large portion of the club’s profits to hire a staff that organized petition drives and protests,” spending about $1 million on organizing efforts in the course of eight years. Bloch sold the club to Peter Shapiro in 1996; Shapiro continued the activism element, but gentrification of the neighborhood drove Wetlands out of business when the building was converted into condos in 2001.

“We labor to birth our dance with the Earth.” —Larry Bloch