On Saturday night Blue Traveler’s John Popper sat in with moe. at the Beacon Theatre. This New York City gig brought together two artists whose formative years included celebrated stints at Tribeca venue Wetlands Preserve. That club opened in February 1989 and to mark the occasion, we revisit this conversation with moe.’s Rob Derhak which originally appears five years ago, just prior to a silver anniversary celebration of the venue at the Capitol Theatre.
What are your first memories of playing the Wetlands?
We played a few gigs, but the first big one I remember was when we opened up for the Dude of Life, and I didn’t know what that meant. Then when I got there, some of the guys from Phish were his backing band and he was like a lyricist for Phish and it ended up being this huge insane blowout. All these people who had never heard of us got exposed to our band. It was like this huge boost for us. I think we had played there maybe three times, as our own act or maybe we were on a bill with like three other bands. So basically our friends. And all of a sudden we had this following in New York City after that, it was great. That was the earliest thing I can remember. It was like you were at a house party every time you were there. It wasn’t like playing a gig. You were in and out of the crowd. The stage is basically right where the crowd is, you’re so low so you are really part of the experience. It’s cool.
Sounds like it was a little bit different to play the Wetlands than it was to play other venues?
Well it was. I mean first thing you noticed was the sort of bad hippie paintings, and the bus. That VW bus. It was like all of a sudden you were in this place where you knew you weren’t going to be dealing with metal heads who didn’t want to be there. It was like this crowd that was meant for our music.
What are some of your other memories from the Wetlands?
There was a lot of people just coming in and out all the time. We had a New Year’s show there one year where—I don’t remember what the capacity of the place was—but for some reason, I don’t know how we worked this, but we ended up almost doubling the amount of people that were supposed to be in that building at the time. We just kept stuffing people in. People would leave and, I don’t know man, it was a pretty funky party. (Laughs) It’s hard to remember most of the stuff that happened there.