In a rare solo piano performance Tuesday night at New York’s Fare Thee Well concerts, noted that he began his career only a few blocks from the City Winery, at the Wetlands Preserve.
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“Wetlands was a beat-up old rock club, right down there at the exit of the Holland Tunnel, at Hudson and Laight [Street],” recalled Shapiro. “There was something magical about that beat-up old rock club, and the magic was based on the theory that you can have fun at a rock and roll show while also getting educated.”
Wetlands, which was opened in 1989 by Larry Bloch and run by Shapiro from 1996 until it closed in 2001, was an activists’ gathering place as well as a night club. “Along the walls were pamphlets on a wide-rang of issues,” recalled Shapiro, “typically related to environmental activism, but also animal rights and social rights.”
Shapiro praised Bloch, his mentor and a fellow Dead Head.
“A true story, ” he recalled. “A lot of times he would do a job interview [and ask a candidate] ‘What’s Jerry Garcia’s birthday?’” To those who answered correctly — Aug. 1 — Bloch quickly replied, “You’re hired!”
Quipped Shapiro: “You just don’t see that at Live Nation or AEG.”
“I learned everything I do today from Larry Bloch, who said, ‘I started Wetlands with two passions in mind. One was my desire to entertain people. And the other was to be an environmental activist.’
“And he brought them together,” said Shapiro.
“And I think it a lot of ways, that’s what Farm Aid does with their events. They’re great events, you can have a lot of fun — and they also mean something.”