Josh Baish is still in shock about having to close Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. The Denton music venue, which he's owned and operated since 1997 — virtually all of his adult life — has been his life's work. But with his divorce from his ex-wife finalized on Monday, Gloves unexpectedly became "a casualty of [his] divorce."
"When I woke up that morning, if you'd told me I would have to make the decision to close Rubber Gloves, I would never have believed you. It's incredibly shocking," Baish says, speaking over the phone. He says the news left him "numb." "I was backed into a corner. It came down to time with my girls, so I would have to make a tough decision."
Baish's marriage had only lasted a little over a year, but from it he has twin three-year-old daughters. "They're everything to me," he says, and ultimately they were the driving force in his decision to have to close Gloves.
While a post to the venue's Facebook page on Wednesday morning suggested the closure would be "for good (tentatively)," it seems likely that the move will be a permanent one.
"I have to move; I have to get a new house; I have to get a new car. My life is starting over, essentially," Baish says. Just about all that he has at this point is the property that Gloves sits on, which has "skyrocketed in value" since he bought it as a 22 year old. "I have to do what's going to be best for me and my daughters. I don't want to sell the property because it's all I have."
Baish met with his real estate agent yesterday, and while plans are still developing, they seem to be heading in one direction: "It's sad, but I'm probably going to wind up leasing to a developer and I don't know what the fuck they're going to put there."
So Gloves is likely going to be gone for good come June 5, when Baish says he'll be shutting the lights off. It's a particularly bitter pill for him to swallow, given that he feels business was on the upswing.
"We had our most successful month this February that we've had in 20 years," he says, ruefully. In particular, he credits the additions of booker Garrett Gravley (whom Baish describes as a "wunderkind") and Parker Lawson as injecting fresh blood into the venue. "This was another golden age, if I could use such a term, of Rubber Gloves — there was no doubt. The staff, everything was gelling. We were moving forward."
Gloves leaves behind a legacy of great shows that spanned genres and, at this point, generations of fans and musicians. "I never considered it a punk venue," Baish says, referring to the fact that, despite its reputation as a grungy place with a DIY spirit, it booked bands across the board. Rapper Astronautalis' shows there were as memorable, and as frequent, as a punk band like Riverboat Gamblers — two acts inextricably linked with Gloves.
"We were never going to change who we were," Baish says. "That was really important to me. And I'm really proud of that. We never sold out, we never changed who we were."
Baish acknowledges that, amidst the increasing property values, Gloves never would've survived this long had he not owned the property. He says that the many renovations he'd hoped to undertake — including reopening the kitchen and outdoor stage, which "would've cost hundreds of thousands of dollars" — were necessary "in order to compete" and simply hope to turn a profit.
While it was ultimately Baish's divorce that spelled the end of Gloves, what may be even more important is what its loss will mean to the future of music in Denton. Already this year, the city has lost one of its long-running venues, Hailey's Club. This is an even bigger blow. Baish doesn't mince his words on that front.
"Denton [is] changing and it's changing at a scary pace," he says. "Now you see people who, the money comes first. It's just sad to see. Dan's [Silver Leaf] is the only other venue that matters in town and the only other place that's done it almost as long — if not longer, in different forms." He pauses, as though to give a shrug or throw up his hands. "I hope somebody will come along and carry the torch. I've done my time and I don't have a say in that any more."
As for what Baish will do after Gloves has closed, he has no idea. "What the fuck am I going to do? This is my reality," he says. "I don't have a college degree. This is all I know."
It's possible that, once he's back on his feet, Baish will find his way back into the music scene. "I've already had people reaching out wanting to open something with them or go in with them [on it]. The response has been overwhelming," he says. "Somewhere down the line, yeah, sure, why not. But right now, I got to put my life back together."
Whether Baish gets back into the business or not, music is in his DNA. That's what's driven Gloves all these years, and made it the institution that it's been for so long.
"I'm still the kid making mixtapes who fucking loves music," Baish says, excitedly, the memories appearing to relieve some of the pressure. "Having bands I personally love play at Rubber Gloves, and forming friendships with these people, that was never lost on me. I'm still that giddy fanboy kid, hanging out with his favorite musicians and favorite bands."