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Nightlife

Wetlands Sinks

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"Damn! What are we going to do with the van?" Twenty-eight-year-old club owner Pete Shapiro is distraught. He's just discovered that the Wetlands Preserve, his thirteen-year-old jam-band club and save-the-world hangout on Hudson Street, is falling victim to overdevelopment, much like the spotted owls it once championed. The shuttering of "the 'Lands" means the club's psychedelia-splattered, activist-pamphleted VW bus must be towed from its stage-left parking spot by mid-September. Then the building will be converted into luxury condos and the club's hallowed hippie space on the ground floor -- where floral murals of Jerry Garcia and Santana still hang -- will become office space: from Deadhead to Dilbert. "We kind of knew it was coming," says Shapiro, who recently produced the IMAX concert film All Access. "In New York, the live-music venue is an endangered species."

"Wetlands was pretty darn important," recalls Phish's Trey Anastasio, who rode the crest of the jam-band craze starting in the eighties. "If there was a scene, it kind of congealed there."

Now the 'Lands, which Blues Traveler's John Popper nicknamed "Sweat Glands" because of its one-time lack of air-conditioning, is closing -- but Shapiro is already scouting real estate for another activist club, a nonprofit "Lincoln Center for rock music." He's lined up support from enviro-friendly fashion designer Todd Oldham and is in talks with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. "We want it to be huge," he says, "but you can't build another Wetlands -- it takes thirteen years to get that kind of graffiti."

Meanwhile, he's calling Wetlands vets like Dave Matthews and Rancid, hoping they'll play in the club's last days. But he doesn't plan to follow Twilo's lead and auction the van on eBay. "The 'Lands isn't really like that," he says. "We'll probably just give it to a friend."

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