X Marks The Spot : How I Found RGRS
I don’t remember the first time I entered Rubber Gloves. I do know that I was at least two years shy of eighteen. I don’t remember who I saw, although friends tell me it was the Riverboat Gamblers, or Dirty Hairy, maybe the No Brainers. I vaguely remember the chisel of a mega-Sharpie on the back of my hands.
I do remember Thursday, May 19th of this year. The timeline of my life is hazy, but I distinctly remember walking into Gloves last week, ready to see She Banshee, Bad Beats, War Party, and Sealion—and feeling something akin to grief.
Rubber Gloves opened in 1997. I was a child. It would be several years until I made my way across the tracks to despot freedom, that building’s hallmark appeal. There is something intimidating about its loneliness. It doesn’t sit neatly against mom & pop businesses like Evers Hardware or Ellington’s, now-dead points on the map of my parents’ lives here.
Denton has been never static. My stepfather remembers Jim’s Diner just as well as he remembers Kharma Café, where he’d stop on morning walks to wade through the smoke for a 50-cent coffee. Both establishments barely—just barely—existed in the same plane. He remembers rooftop UNT protests, Hawkes Pipe and Tobacco, his friends flying past Voertman’s with spliffs on bikes to evade the cops. He remembers Zebra Head as Birmingham Balloon Company.
But when it comes to my Denton, the one that shaped me, I remember embarrassingly little. Bagheri’s patio, The Tomato, Uncommon Ground—then what? Walking in last Thursday, I racked my brain for context. When did something so matchless as Gloves become so hard to pin down? As I waited in line to pay $1 and receive my wristband, I watched a lanky kid stand off to the side, awaiting his own chiseled marker.
I intended to leave the show by 10. Acquaintances bought t-shirts and stickers by the fistful, all of us eager to preserve our own histories with the place. Everyone’s is different. Rubber Gloves was one of the only venues in town willing to host the Denton Spoken Word Collective, a literary performance group founded by Joe Tucker, Makayla Price, and myself. The venue made little money hosting us; even coffee shops didn’t want us. We spent those nights ranting onstage, hyping the audience up for the open mic portion. One of our pieces read: “You’ve never looked as good / as you do / in the dingy dive spotlight at Rubber Gloves.”
I felt grief because I knew it was ending. I felt loss and lack. A widening gap. But Denton becomes a new place every few decades, reinventing itself always. I learned this when the Fry Street Fair ended, followed shortly by the fire, then the closure of nearly every business on the block. My stepfather has watched the city’s rebirth several times over. This happens; we know that. So why does it hurt so much?
While applauding She Banshee and awaiting Bad Beats, I tried to make a list of gifts Gloves had given me. There was Fang Island, a band my then-boyfriend compared to Queen (if Queen had reunited for contemporary tastes, we agreed.) Two years later, there were Cleanup and The Angelus, both of whom affirmed my fondness for post- and math rock, now among my most beloved indulgences. There was the inimitable Captured! By Robots. Too recently, I saw The Marked Men, DFW staples who were legendary before my high school years and who it took me damn near a decade to see. (I dropped and ruined a pair of glasses during their set.) Friends and I saw hip-hop acts, electronic duos, explored the rehearsal spaces, cut our teeth on 25-cent wells as we tried (and failed) to remember all the words to Astronautalis songs. We were young, constantly between jobs and classes. Our pocket change funded experiences. For many of us, no other venue felt so much like a home.
I could go on forever. The gifts are innumerable. In the dark of the performance space, I felt like a thankless brat counting her blessings for the first time. Who was I, for even a moment, to take Rubber Gloves for granted? To assume that it would weather anything and everything?
As War Party neared the end of their set, the kid with the Xed-out hands and his friends started a mosh pit. The singer paused after that song to dedicate the next, with a laugh: “This one goes out to all you moshers.” But by the time Sealion took the stage, everyone was primed—hungry—for movement. The kid and his friends had started a fire. In a town where too many people now stand still, they had reinfused Gloves with an irascible energy: thrash or be thrashed. Weren’t we all like them once? I thought. Aren’t we still?
By 1 AM, every last soul had joined in. Those who hesitated at first threw themselves into the fray. Boyfriends held purses, beer rained down; anytime someone fell, five hands shot down to pull them back up. I kept my eye on the leader, that kid with the Xs. I can’t remember the first time I went to Gloves, but I remember that feeling—like the only way to process joy was to absolutely lose your cool—and knowing that nowhere else in town could claim that. Nowhere else ever will.