Rubber Gloves Embroiled in Controversy Over Suicide Joke on Facebook
Everyone's hands got dirty in a recent feud centered around a show at Rubber Gloves in Denton
We've all had those nights in college that get a little out of hand, but in Denton recently, a seemingly minor drama during a show at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studio got real-world serious pretty quick. Like, with lawyers and everything. A disagreement between the venue owner and Denton creative group the Tron Collective that started with a cover of a Sublime song (amongst other broken rules) led to the group being ejected from the venue. A Facebook feud and couple suicide jokes later, both parties now want to place the bulk of the blame for the whole episode on the shoulders of a report from UNT's NT Daily.
Stephen Wilson, spokesman for the Tron Collective, says that prior to the band's show on August 29 — their first at Rubber Gloves — he exchanged more than 30 emails with the bar management in preparation for the event to ensure he and his co-hosts knew the rules. One point that Rubber Gloves manager Justin Webb now acknowledges wasn't addressed beforehand was the strict "no covers" policy (which is, nonetheless, posted in multiple places around the venue).
Shortly after the start of their set, Tron performed a Sublime cover, at which point Webb approached Wilson about violating the rules. When, after a brief, cordial exchange between the two, a later band proceeded to play a Led Zeppelin cover, Webb, in a more heated conversation, instructed Wilson to inform the other bands of the policy — which Wilson admits he didn't do. “It’s our bad, we should have communicated with the bands on that,” he says.
Webb then confronted Wilson for a third time following complaints of non-artists walking across the stage during sets and people taking drinks into liquid-free zones, which Webb calls "completely disrespectful." Things turned into a full-blown argument — both Webb and Wilson accuse the other of shouting obscenities — at which point another member of the Tron Collective, Garen Powers (who performs as Soso Sorrow) showed up at that exact moment to offer his two cents. "I was told the 'get the fuck out' and an employee spat on me," says Powers.
This private message thread on Facebook became the center of controversy
Screenshot courtesy of Josh Baish
The next morning, Josh Baish, owner of Rubber Gloves, woke to find multiple new 1-star reviews from seemingly disgruntled members of the Tron Collective — specifically Powers — and their friends. “If you think that we genuinely deserve a 1-star review, then by all means tell us that we suck and why," Baish says. "But because the Tron Collective felt they were wronged by getting called out for breaking multiple rules even after we told them? No.” Baish has run Rubber Gloves for almost 20 years and says he can count on one hand the number of times such issues have popped up.
Baish's response to the trolling was one for the books, though. “I went back and said something," he explains. "I would just go through their profile pictures and I’d pick some funny picture and say some stupid thing."
One such “stupid thing” was in response to a private message from Powers who sent the music venue this message following Baish’s profile trolling: “Hi Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios — your post makes me think you might be going through something difficult. If you want support, I’m here. You could also contact a online to talk to a trained helper about this. Here are some numbers to call: https://www.facebook.com/help/103883219702654”.
After quite a bit of back-and-forth, Baish replied in the private message saying, “No fucking way. Speaking of suicide, it’d be the only option I’d consider if I were seen WEARING THAT CLOWN COSTUME IN PUBLIC. And don’t get me started on those STUPID FUCKING BRACELETS.” Baish went on to say, “ Seriously, how do you not consider putting a gun in your mouth EVERYTIME YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THIS FUCKING ENSEMBLE?!?!”
“Wow, reported," Powers wrote back. "You’re suggesting suicide, not cool man.” Powers then took a screenshot of that portion of the conversation and post it to Rubber Gloves’ Facebook page with the comment: “In the interest of denton bar hoppers, I think it should be known that the extremely professional staff at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios find it okay to belligerently harass and tell its own booked musicians and customers to make jokes about suicide and 'putting guns in people’s mouths.'"
Powers says he saw this type of behavior as cyber-bulling and a blatant directive by Baish to kill himself over his choice of accessories. "After I received a private message from Josh Baish who I believe was telling me to kill myself, I screencapped it and posted it on their Facebook. Because obviously the 1-star review wasn’t doing much."
To Baish, his comment was nothing more than a defense mechanism. “What I referenced was in no way, shape or form me endorsing someone who’s actually suicidal, encouraging that. That’s not what this was at all. This was somebody attacking me," he says. "Why do you get to joke around about suicide? Me referencing suicide was in the context of him sending that to me. Does he really think I’m depressed and need a hug? No. He’s being a smartass. And that’s all it was.”
Two weeks later, the spat had made its way to the NT Daily with the original headline that read, "Speaking of suicide," by way of senior staff writer, Rhiannon Saegert. In her article, Saegert seemingly left out a good portion of the facts involved with respect to the private message between Baish and Powers, as well as the fact the it was Powers that introduced suicide into the conversation. (The title was later changed to read, "A Facebook argument and the suggestion of suicide.")
Saegert, as well as Editor-in-Chief Nicholas Friedman and News Editor Dalton LaFerney, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Fed up with the situation, Baish began to look a bit closer at the article and the writer herself. He alleges that Saegert is a friend of the Tron Collective members and is using her voice and platform as a journalist to help out her friends. However, he’s basing this theory on the fact that Saegert appears to be Facebook friends with several members of the Tron Collective and not much else.
The Tron Collective didn’t agree with certain accusations in the NT Daily article either. “In the previous article the owner had said he was in charge of it and we had accused him of advocating teen suicide. We never ever said that,” Wilson says. “I just want to make sure that’s clear, because she didn’t really make it clear enough in the first one. We were never saying that they just go around and advocate suicide. But in this instance, whether it was a joke or not, they did tell someone to kill themselves in an argument.”
Baish hired a lawyer to handle it from there on. There were several letters back and forth between Baish’s attorney and general counsel for UNT and several edits were made to the article (including the adjustment to the headline). Weeks later, however, the article remains live and no apologies have been made.
“What she did wasn’t right and she did it in the name of journalism," Baish insists. "And if they have any sort of journalistic integrity they would have pulled that article and I would’ve been issued an apology. But I’m letting it go at that because at the end of the day I’ve got other shit to do."
Wilson, Powers and the rest of the Tron Collective say they’re only concerned about ensuring that this type of treatment doesn’t happen to anyone else and that they just want to have fun and play — they’d even be up for giving Rubber Gloves another shot. “Bands that we associate with have already played with them again. I have nothing against Rubber Gloves personally; I just feel the way they acted was very immature," Powers says. Wilson adds, “I’d be willing to go back if the management changed its attitude a little. I’m not saying we don’t have stuff to work on. We should have communicated, we should have made sure the rules were spelled out to us. So, there’s things we’re going to work on as well."
As for Rubber Gloves, it seems to be business as usual — no covers and all. l'll leave you with a few wise words to live by from Josh Baish: “I mean who the fuck covers Sublime? I apologize if you’re a Sublime fan, but come the fuck on.”
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