Built it, and they will indie-rock

Josh Baish and Denton fit together like a band and Rubber Gloves

Josh Baish has hardly begun to tell his story--how he recently bought half of Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios in Denton, how he wants to turn it from an occasional performance space into a full-time club, how he feels his adopted hometown of Denton is on the verge of something big--when his frustration interrupts him. His voice suddenly takes on an exasperated tone, as if the other shoe just dropped and landed on his head.

Yesterday, building inspectors informed Baish and his husband-and-wife partners, Memory and Jason Wortham, that they would have to build a parking lot to accommodate 103 spaces, the latest in a series of stumbling blocks Baish has encountered since he decided to go into business with the Worthams a few months ago. It seems getting the money to buy half of Rubber Gloves was the easy part; his parents finally gave him access to his trust fund. Transforming the club he co-owns into the one that exists in his mind has been the problem, taking much longer than he originally anticipated. It's been hard enough just getting started.

"It's just so much freakin' bullshit," Baish sighs less than a minute into our conversation, exhaling like he hasn't at all since the building inspectors stopped by. "It's one thing after another. Originally, when I got back here [after the holidays], it was going to be a month and a half from that. Now, we've pushed it back. My birthday's March 31, so we want to have it [completed] by the end of March. Once we get this parking lot in, that's going to be the last thing we need to do, then we knock down the wall, and we expand it. It's like the snowball effect: You get one thing going, and then everything kind of falls into it. When all is said and done, it's going to be right-on. It's going to be really cool."

Baish can't stay upset about the delays for long, because he--and everyone involved--realizes how much potential Rubber Gloves has. Almost as soon as his agitation surfaces, it's gone again, replaced by his enthusiasm for the project. It's not hard for Baish to stay upbeat, because he knows that as soon as he and the Worthams overcome the setbacks that keep tripping them up, they will be part of something special. Rubber Gloves, he believes, won't be just another club; it'll be a home, something the Denton music community hasn't had since The Argo shut down in September 1997.

But he doesn't want simply to recreate The Argo. He wants to make Rubber Gloves into something bigger and better, a real club, though not in the image of The Curtain Club or Caravan of Dreams. His ideas include not only expanding and opening a bar, but adding an art gallery as well, and maybe a small movie theater. He sees Rubber Gloves as something Denton can rally around, a focal point of a local scene full of people searching for somewhere, anywhere to go.

"These kids here need a place, and it's not Rick's," says the 24-year-old Baish, who should know, since he's worked as a bartender at Rick's for five years. "People come here, it's not the Groovy Mule. It's not this bullshit. It needs to be this place that they can contribute to and come to."

If all goes according to plan, Baish's idea of a community center-cum-nightclub should become a reality in the next few months. The first step is opening a bar, a key to the rest of Rubber Gloves' development. Up till now, it has operated under a bring-your-own-beer policy, severely limiting its profitability; the $5 cover charge collected at most shows is barely enough to pay the bands and the bills. Barring any more suggestions by the building inspectors, Rubber Gloves will initiate the procedure of obtaining a liquor license from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, a process that usually takes a little more than a month.

As soon as the license is acquired, Baish and the Worthams will begin serving beer and wine in an area that is currently used by the Worthams as an apartment. Once they move out, the wall that separates their apartment from the performance space will be knocked down, almost doubling the size of the club.

Opening the bar not only means more room and more money, it also allows Rubber Gloves to stay open almost every night of the week, once again offering Denton--and Dallas, for that matter--a real alternative. When The Argo closed, it threw a stick in the spokes of the Denton scene, and coupled with the Orbit Room's demise last June, its passing practically erased the Dallas-Denton-Fort Worth area from the tour itineraries of the punk and indie rock bands that used to come through. Wanz Dover's annual Melodica Festival--which brought in such national bands as Silver Apples, Experimental Audio Research, 5ive Style, the Sea and Cake, and Tortoise--was forced to move to Austin.

It hurt local bands just as much, forcing them into friends' houses and, for a while, the basement of a Mr. Gatti's in Denton. The Worthams began hosting shows in the spare room of their rehearsal studio complex out of necessity, initially only picking up a few concerts that had already been scheduled at The Argo. It was a temporary gesture, something to take up the slack until The Argo reopened in a new location. But it never did.

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