Now that it’s no longer an active venue, I can tell you the address of The Glove. The only problem is I never knew the address to begin with. It wasn’t listed online for safety reasons; I just knew it by its nondescript entrance, a gray metal door covered in graffiti, located somewhere on Lexington off of Bushwick’s Broadway.
While having to be “in the know” might seem like a barrier to entry, droves of underground music fans flocked to this DIY space, during the little more than three years that its sequestered doors were open, to witness a community of artists working in a multitude of mediums.
One such, Michael Kolb, a bassist and keyboardist who plays in Water from Your Eyes, thanks for coming, and his own project, Kolb, called The Glove “a place that does a great job of doing music that is for people who are going to shows, by people who are going to shows not catered to turning a profit.”
Similarly, soundperson R.L. Srinivasan stressed showgoers in her assessment: “It’s not so much about the people who run this space or the people who play music,” she said, “but the people who are down to throw ten bucks on any given night to see something they haven’t seen before.”
Over the course of five evenings, I attended the final Glove shows, which featured upwards of 30 artists, many of whom are house favorites, and whose disciplines spanned genres from jazz, noise, electronic dance music, avant-garde, punk, and everything in between.
During these nights, which could indefatigably drift until close to dawn, the room was alive with chatter, music, sweat, the warm smell of marijuana drifting above swaying bodies. Glove collective members weaved through walls of people to lend a hand wherever one was needed. Their stress was palpable as they dealt with unexpected trip-ups, such as when the air conditioner blew out during John Zorn’s set, transforming the windowless room from a place “sent from heaven above,” as its unofficial motto went, to an accurate simulacrum of the one below.
Another such instance occurred as I stood outside on Tuesday night, speaking with performers and Glove staff, while a blinking cop car loomed in the distance, an ominous reminder that New York’s underground institutions are often operating tenuously within the law.
This scene, however, was tempered by the jubilation felt when the collective members took the stage at 2:15am Sunday morning to impart some parting words in a champagne toast. The mood was steeped in optimism and not defeat; a message of hope was intoned by co-founder Dean Cercone.
Following the shuttering of Silent Barn in 2018 and Shea Stadium the year prior, the closure of The Glove is less a surprise than a predictably unfortunate part of the cycle of gentrification. Saddled with numerous noise complaints from the luxury condos that have cropped up across the street, the collective that has kept the space running has decided to go out on its own terms and close shop before its hand is forced. “After ‘discussions’ with new residents, local officials, and developers, we’ve come to the conclusion our business model is no longer a good fit for the area,” they wrote in their closure announcement in May.
Perched on a seat in the corner between the show space and the steep staircase that leads to the roof, William Table painted portraits for $5 on the penultimate night. His groups Climax Landers and Old Table had perennial home-status and he put down his watercolors for a moment to offer a cogent evaluation of the predicament: “These things are fleeting,” he said. “They crop up and it’s a couple of years that they can exist and due to market forces and capitalism it ends. There’s no respect for the arts in this country. There’s no built-in institutional structure to preserve young artists, to encourage young artists.”
Co-founder and owner Lily Chambers, who booked shows, bartended, and answered all incoming emails, justified this weighted choice by saying,“I wanted The Glove, because it was so holy for some people, [to get] to see itself out in the most amazing and healthy and for-itself way possible.”
As I spoke with a dozen staff members, similar sentiments were echoed again and again. Jen Plaskowitz, another co-founder who cultivated the garden on the roof, tended bar, and booked shows, said, “I’m really gonna miss [The Glove], but I’m also happy for it to finish. It’s a good note to end on.”
Many expressed that while the space is ephemeral, the community built there will live on. And there’s proof to back this up: The Glove was founded in 2016, as an offshoot of a basement space called The Bohemian Grove.
“When we first moved to the space, there was hardly anything here. It was a pit across the street and you could see over it to the rooftops of the brownstones,” said Stonie Clark, who ran a vintage clothing and guitar shop and gave haircuts within the space.
Clark, like most of the core staff, is also an artist. Her band Straw Pipes played its first show at The Glove and also played in its final lineup.
Luke Alexander, a former Grove dweller who has recordings of almost every Glove performance, explained, “You can’t do shows in your house seven days a week. It’s rough.”
The Grove’s landlord agreed and, threatened with eviction, a group got together and established The Glove after one of its tenants, Matt Michael, who worked in real estate, found the building.
“Eight of us put together $1,200 that we didn’t even have and we did it,” Cercone said from atop the roof, which was built by the staff as a place to hang out and smoke cigarettes, though a tobacco smell often emanated through the show area regardless. “You can create a space you want to be in and inspire people within that space.”
The name The Glove, as bartender, booker, and musician Mallie Sanford put it, resulted from an attempt to reflect its sister venue in title. “Me and some friends were at Flowers [for all Ocasions] and they were trying to name it The Bohemian Lexington, which is just a really dumb name, and we were like, ‘You’re not doing it,” they said. “So we were just sounding out words at the bar and we were like, ‘The Grove…the grove…the glove. Of course!’”
After that, an LLC was established along with the space’s ethos, which, according to founding member Cameron Stuart, was to be, “an expression not only of the people who made it, but the people who came here. It was thought out that way to be that, to be really responsive to the direct community it was going to serve.”
Chambers also stressed the performance art community the space fostered in addition to its commitment to up-and-coming and experimental musicians.
Everyone made it clear that The Glove itself shouldn’t be lionized the way past DIY venues have been, but instead should be seen as a call to arms for those looking to lead a new generation.
Towing the line of burying The Glove, not praising it, Stuart used this ouroboros of logic to rationalize its popularity: “I don’t think [the venue is] more uniquely unique than other unique spaces but it’s unique in its own uniqueness.”
When I finally left at 4am, bleary-eyed and beaten-down, I reminisced about all the late nights that stood out in my New York memories that were thanks to unforgettable shows at The Glove and instead of a pang of sadness, a feeling of sanguinity washed over me.
Those last five nights at The Glove were as much a testament to its unique uniqueness as one can find. No two acts whose set I saw could fit snugly on a venn diagram; each was a different experience that taken in whole was a well-suited choice for the venue’s mission. Palm, the experimental Philly rock band, played a semi-secret set, which was one of the highlights. Their glitchy guitar rock, punctuated by starts-and-stops, has gained them a cult following and they brought in a large crowd, which included Connor Rush, a former Ad-Hoc booker who helms his own booking project Golden Parachute, and who holds down door and bartends at the venues Trans Pecos and Market Hotel.
“This is one of the last, if not the very last, truly affordable and representative venue in the DIY scene in New York,” Rush said. “You’re gonna lose the depth of programming that this space went to to bring in, diverse voices, and just generally you’re gonna lose shows, like tonight, where you’re seeing a very large band like Palm, playing to a very small crowd.”
Friday night, a friend ushered me down from the roof with a text: “Seriously get everyone down here. It’s so good. It’s very stereolab.” It turns out it was the 14-piece chamber-pop band Tredici Bacci, who led the room in a sing-along to a simple 4/4 beat that went, “I love The Glove / It’s a place I love / The Glove was sent from heaven above / The venue version of a great, big hug / I love The Glove.” Posturing is a de facto DIY attitude, but most put aside their cool remove and joined in. My hands were pruned with perspiration and lord knows I had had my share of spiked seltzers, yet days after the show, I continued to chant this catechism.
The final lineup included Cameron Stuart, who improvised on a guitar cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” turning an old standard into a free-form jam akin to what Coltrane did with “My Favorite Things.” Atlanta four-piece Red Sea played poppy swinging psychedelic rock with mathy undertones. Straw Pipes, who just came off a tour in which they opened for Beck, brought campy-fun to their set in which lead singer LeLe donned an unwieldy costume that made her resemble an anthropomorphic cake. As I listened to the Patterson, NY band named dog, I became the unwitting participant in a mosh pit, but in true Glove fashion, I went with the flow and allowed my body to be flung from side to side as the post-hardcore music coaxed us on. My Adidas are trounced, trampled by zealous pogoers, but it’s just collateral damage for an inimitable evening. It won’t be easy, but it’s possible for an heir to The Glove’s legacy to rise from the ashes. As manager and booker Charlie Dore-Young aptly put it, “Anyone can start a space until the condos come.”