Feature Stories

Requiem for Rubber Gloves on the Eve of Its Final Shows

On the far side of the train tracks in Denton, in an almost Mad Max-esque setting, sits Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. The soon to be closed music venue, a former cement factory, sits on a near-empty street in the industrial area of Denton.  The street will be more empty After Lift to Experience plays there this Sunday. Robber Gloves — or Gloves, or Rogers, or RGRS, or whatever you've preferred to call it these past 19 years — will close its doors, and with it a legendary chapter in Denton music history.

Jayson Wortham and his wife Memory Ebeier opened Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios in March 1997 as a place for Denton bands to practice. Wortham wanted to lease the building because he was playing in a band called Greenella with Rob Peters — owner of now defunct Denton venue the Argo — and they needed a place to rehearse.

There are two commonly talked about music venues that come up when referring to Denton's pre-Rubber Gloves music history: Rick's Place and The Argo. Rick's got all the big names during the early '90s at the tail end of the alt-grunge era. The internet was barely a thing; people sent postcards out to tell others about their shows. Record labels still had money and their minions crawled all over the DFW market. Ricks held around 1,000 people, the Argo around 300.

The Argo, in its brief time in the Denton music scene, attracted bands from across the country that didn’t really have a place to play in Dallas. After news of The Argo closing broke in September 1997, Kris Youmans suggested that some of the shows be moved to this new rehearsal studios spot across town, Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios.

“When the Argo closed, I had six to seven shows on the books that couldn't go to house shows,” says Youmans, who's now a talent buyer for Margin Walker Presents and co-owner of Three Links in Deep Ellum. He was also booking shows at his house and the Bonnie Brae House, a DIY house show venue that saw the likes of the GetUp Kids before they made their way to stages in Denton and beyond. 
Youmans went to Wortham and Ebeier that August with his request for live music. At this time, Gloves looked completely different inside. The bar and liquor license were still three years out, and all of the programming was held in the live music room. There was a wall where the bar sitting room meets the live music room, and the main door was right behind where the sound booth is now.

The first show at Rubber Gloves was headlined by Ttari, a band from California that played on September 9, 1997. Later that month at the second show, a stage debuted. Youmans says the stage was built by himself, Josh Pearson of Lift to Experience, Josh Wright, Bryan Smith and about six others. The Get Up Kids played Gloves later that night.

Josh Baish, the current owner of Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, attended his first show at the club on the advice of his friend, Brent Best. Baish was a bartender at Rick’s Place five years before jumping in at Rubber Gloves and also worked at X-Records, close to Rick’s in the Fry Street area.

Baish moved to Denton from Tennessee. A girl encouraged him to go to Fry Street to check out a band and  took him to Rick’s Place to see Tripping Daisy,  playing right before they got signed. “You could feel the energy,” Baish said. “People were going nuts. The energy was palpable. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.”

He moved to Denton the next year and started going to school in the fall. Baish then got hired at Rick’sand worked his way up to being a bartender before eventually becoming interested in Rubber Gloves. 
Baish’s first introduction to business, he says, was when he chose to buy out Wortham and Ebeier. “Not that I learned anything,” Baish says. “Rubber Gloves would be a different place if I were a businessman. But who the fuck knows? I can’t grieve about that.”

One of the most memorable nights Baish can recall is when DJ Nature did a hip-hop show at Rubber Gloves before moving to Puerto Rico. Around 2,000 people showed up. The outdoor stage was open, and there were people climbing over the fences to get in. “It was the most insane night I’ve ever had,” Baish says. “People were doing drugs everywhere. Not like heroine, but cocaine and other substances were in full force.”

Things escalated quickly. “Texas Rangers, TABC, Denton PD,” Baish says, “all at this for the DJ Nature show. I saw this guy fighting with the cops — like, riot shit — the cops pin him on the ground. His girlfriend is about 30 feet away, sees the cops are on her boyfriend. She hightailed its and jumps on the cop and started clawing his face.”

“This is a poetic thing if I may,” Baish continues. “I remember the sun coming up, it was an all night thing. The people cleared out. The trash was strewn, everyone lett everything there. But I was the only one left there. I’ll never forget that night.”

In 2000 Rubber Gloves got a beer and wine license. "“I had to go and fuck it up by putting a bar in,” Baish says. “Until we got on paper, it was just so makeshift. It was done out of necessity. The Argo had shut down, so the bands needed a place to play.”

Youmans and Robin Phillips were the two folks most responsible for booking the headlining acts that came through Rubber Gloves in the late '90s and early 2000s.  “It is actually impressive the amount of bands who came through that went on to be massive names,” Youmans says. We’d get them the first and second times through before they gained the interest of the Dallas clubs.”

Since the beginning, Rubber Gloves has remained an all-ages venue - something that no other regular Denton venue can claim. The venue has seen hundreds of bands that have grown to be internationally recognized, household names. There are countless memories in the heads of young people who got exposed to music at Gloves. As Denton looks at its future with dismay and hope over what comes next, Rubber Gloves will fade into local music history. But it won't be easily forgotten.  

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