By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
"We didn't have a stage or any sound equipment or anything," Memory Wortham recalls. "It was just a real haphazard kind of deal. We just decided to put it together to make some extra money. And then, The Argo never opened up again, and all these people started calling us. The word was getting out, and it just kind of exploded on us. We weren't expecting it at all. We were just expecting to run rehearsal studios, and that's about it. But we're happy about it."
As their former side project began looking more like a full-time gig, the Worthams began making piecemeal improvements, like installing a proper sound system and constructing a larger, outdoor stage. However, it wasn't until the influx of Baish's cash and ideas that they began to think about what they'd really like to do with the place. They hadn't even really thought of themselves as a real club, and hardly acted like they owned one, not even advertising shows other than on their voice mail. In fact, Baish didn't even know Rubber Gloves was hosting a show a few weeks ago until someone called and asked whether he was going.
"Here I am, I'm half-owner of the place, and I don't even know what the fuck is going on," Baish laughs. "We're going to have ads now. More people are going to know about the shows. We're going to do a lot more stuff that they're not capable of doing right now, because they don't have the funds to do it."
The developments at Rubber Gloves have already had one positive side effect: The return of three-quarters of Centro-matic, as well as Matt Barnhart, from St. Louis. The group moved there early last year, and frontman Will Johnson was expected to join them sometime this year. But they began having misgivings about staying in St. Louis; there weren't enough bands in the city to support drummer Matt Pence and Barnhart's production company, Transcontinental Recording, or Barnhart's label, Quality Park Recordings. In fact, the only projects they worked on while in St. Louis were based in the Dallas-Denton area, even the music they recorded with fellow Denton expatriate Matt Duncan. When they came back for Johnson's wedding a few weeks ago and saw the progress at Rubber Gloves and the resurgence of the local scene, it helped them make up their minds.
"Josh is a really good friend of mine, and we just got to talking," Barnhart says. "He started talking about the stuff he was trying to do out at Rubber Gloves, buying into it and trying to make it a bit more of an actual club. Just offhandedly, he said, 'We really miss you guys around here, and we wish you were around to help out and stuff." We spoke with Peter Schmidt, and after talking to him and a bunch of other people, we just came to the realization that, as much as we love the city of St. Louis--it's an amazing place to live, and we love it--there's just too much going on in Denton and Dallas to ignore."
Johnson agrees. "I think he [Barnhart] is really taken with the idea that Baish has taken such an interest in Rubber Gloves," Johnson says. "I don't know, I just get the feeling that Barnhart kind of came down here and saw some roots being planted in really good ways that maybe made him miss the place even more than he originally did. It'll be like old times for a little while. I think it'll be good--for probably a long while, actually."
Pence and Barnhart's return--and Johnson's non-departure--only adds to the wealth of local activity. As soon as all of the arrangements can be made, Transcontinental Recording will merge with producer Dave Willingham's 70 Hurtz Studio in Argyle, creating perhaps the best production facility the area has ever seen. And Barnhart's Quality Park Recordings has a full slate of releases due in the coming months, including the debut full-length from Little Grizzly (featuring guest appearances by Johnson and members of Slobberbone and Check), a compilation of everything Denton's Wiring Prank has ever recorded, and two Centro-matic albums (an odds-and-sods collection in May, and another full-length in the summer). Barnhart will also help Baish put together a 'zine, called Trick Knee, centered around the goings-on at Rubber Gloves.
For Baish, the involvement of Pence and Barnhart in Rubber Gloves, as well as their joint venture with Willingham, only makes him more excited about the future than ever--the future of Rubber Gloves and Denton itself. This, he claims, is only the beginning.
"There's a lot more foundation and support here," Baish says, any hint of frustration completely absent now. "All the bands are so incestual. Everybody's been a part of everybody's band. Everybody's recorded everybody. Everybody's played with everybody. And everybody's friends, for the most part. I think that it's really coming together now. In the six years I've lived here, I've never seen anything like it, and it's just starting right now. I just feel that I'm not doing anything, that it's happening around me. I'm just really happy to be a part of it."