Remembering Rubber Gloves
There was a period of time between 1997 and 2001 where Rubber Gloves was the perfect spot for post-hardcore/emo bands to play. Granted, this was only four years, but these years are still considered legendary by people like myself. That's not to say the years since were not memorable. Many great shows have happened at Rubber Gloves. Whether it was 1997, 2004, or 2016, the place has a long tradition of bringing in quality bands. But in the history the post-hardcore/emo genre, right before it was known as a blend of sad-eyed, overly-melodramatic punk in the mainstream, Rubber Gloves was one of the key venues in the country.
Some important context about this time: If your life was changed by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Green Day, and/or The Offspring between 1991 and 1994, you were probably looking for new bands (and new genres) to enjoy in 1997. Major labels didn't exactly know what to pump out to teenagers who became lifelong music fans with grunge and pop-punk, along with teenagers who were too young to understand those bands. You had a swing revival, along with a ska revival, and an attempt to make electronic dance music replace guitars and drums. This was before the Internet had almost every song recorded in existence available to stream or download. The Internet was at a point where news could travel fast, but you still had to guess a bit in order to describe a band's sound to someone. So, music fans had to rely more on 120 Minutes, Sunday night specialty radio shows, small mentions in big magazines, and interviews in fanzines to find something new. You had plenty of indie rock bands touring bars, pop-punk bands playing the Warped Tour, and straight edge hardcore bands making bold stances about health and the environment over sludgy metal riffs. But there was also a style that was usually dismissively called emo, and it was free of mainstream entanglements at the time.
Given the location of Denton, it's a good stop for bands traveling between the big towns in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Better yet, it's a town that will embrace a band that the big cities don't want to book yet. Emo bands weren't pulling in crazy numbers when Rubber Gloves opened in 1997, but that changed in a short time. Bands like The Promise Ring, Braid, and The Get Up Kids spoke to people who liked pop-punk and hardcore, but didn't really care about which record label a band was on or what kind of food or drinks the band abstained from. These bands shared their mixed feelings about life and love in ultra-vulnerable ways. Call it emo or post-hardcore, high schoolers and college students connected with the music much more than Cherry Poppin' Daddies or Reel Big Fish.
Certainly helping matters was that these bands released records that are still marveled at today. The Get Up Kids had Four Minute Mile, Braid had Frame & Canvas, The Promise Ring had 30 Degrees Everywhere and Nothing Feels Good. Hot Water Music had Fuel for the Hate Game. At the same time, it was easier to bitch about how MTV sucked and grunge was over. For those who sought out the good stuff by looking underground, they found it. For people who lived in the DFW area, Rubber Gloves was one of the best places to see bands with a fresh sound and a future.
Probably one of the absolutely best shows Rubber Gloves put on during this time involved Jimmy Eat World headlining, At the Drive-In supporting, and local band Post From Vermont opening. The stage they played on was half the size of what it would later be. Crammed is a nice way of putting it, and it was freezing outside. Jimmy Eat World had rebounded after visiting Denton only a couple of years before to a scant audience on Valentine's Day. They were now supporting their third record, Clarity, and it was gaining a tremendous amount of buzz with new fans and fans of their second album, Static Prevails. At the Drive-In was on a mission to make their music have the strongest impact possible, and major labels and journalists started to sniff around and see what was going on. Both bands were on the rise, hungry and fighting to be known. And that certainly came through with their performances. Especially with At the Drive-In, who played like they were about to break their instruments but also playing as if they were in a venue ten times bigger.
Many touring bands like The Anniversary, The Appleseed Cast, Pop Unknown, and Cursive, found a sense in belonging in Denton, whether they played Rubber Gloves or not. Yet Rubber Gloves was the place that attracted the most. Even in the past few years, bands considered emo revival acts found a comfortable place and crowd at Rubber Gloves. The circle kept turning in the best way. Life will have to carry on in Denton after Rubber Gloves closes for good. While the venue will be missed, that should not stop another venue from creating new (and fond) memories for people.