Welcome Back

I listened to a lot of music in college. That’s not to say I didn’t listen to a lot of music before and now after college, but college was the first time I had access high speed internet and I downloaded and listened to as much as I could. I spent a lot of time at the local record stores: Green Street Records until it closed down, and at Parasol Records afterward, buying everything local they had. Or I would order things from the local record label, Polyvinyl - I remember waiting at the mailbox for the first Headlights EP to arrive in 2004 since at the time it was mail order only.

I listened to as much local music and went to as many local shows as I could fit in my schedule, and there was no shortage of bands in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois (or bands from there). Braid, Wolfie, Absinthe Blind, Headlights, American Football, Hum, and on and on. I remember being blown away by Absinthe Blind around the time Rings came out in 2002. And with the campus and Polyvinyl Records in town, there were a lot of great bands that came through. In addition to local bands, I think I saw nearly every band on the Polyvinyl roster at the time when they came to down (Saturday Looks Good to Me and of Montreal at Highdive - separate shows; Mates of State of The Like Young at Cafe Paradiso - same show; among others), and a ton of other bands that came through. Since a vast majority of the campus hailed from the Chicago area, I learned about bands from there too and checked out as many as I could, the names of which are too many to list.

One of those Chicago area bands I listened to was Troubled Hubble. I first found out about Troubled Hubble when I was at a Red Hot Valentines show at the Cowboy Monkey in downtown Champaign in 2003. The keyboardist (Tyson Markley as far as I can tell) was wearing a Troubled Hubble t-shirt with a maple leaf on it. I went on the band’s website later that night and listened to a couple songs from Penturbia and bought the album immediately. I went on to see Troubled Hubble 3 times while I lived in Champaign. The shows were fun and the band was great and made great music.

In 2005 I moved away from Champaign. My time at the University of Illinois was over. I moved to Chicago and have lived in the area since. I saw Troubled Hubble in Chicago a couple more times in 2005. And then as many bands do, they broke up. Time moved on. The lead singer of Trouble Hubble, Chris Otepka, moved on. He moved to the west coast and pursued other projects. I went to see him at South Union Arts in Chicago after work one day when he was in town playing as Heligoats. I continue to follow his music and still buy everything he releases, but that was the last time I saw him play for a long time. I moved on. I got married to my girlfriend of many years. And now we’ve been married for 8 years and have 2 kids.

I’ve gone to a ton of other concerts since then, nearly all stemming from the music I listened to in college. These days though, with kids, my wife and I rarely get out to shows (I can count on both hands how many bands I’ve seen since having kids, and still have a few fingers left over). It has to be a pretty special band to get out for the night, and there are only a few that I feel that passionately about.

Instead, I get to listen to music at home alongside the kids. Saturday Looks Good to Me is weekend morning music, Mates of State is bathtime music, Headlights and Wolfie are general listening in the afternoons or evenings, Eluvium at bedtime, and a healthy mix of other stuff to fill in the cracks.

My son turned 1 last September. I don’t know where the year went, but I don’t know where most years go when they come to a close. Exactly one week before our son was born, my wife and I went to see Troubled Hubble at the Subterranean, the band’s first show in a decade. Most of the crowd was our age, having listened to the band 10 years ago. It was refreshing to see an older crowd at a venue, most times I feel well out of place when I go to shows. It was a fairly surreal experience. Here’s a band I saw a decade ago, back again, and everything felt like 2005 again. Thax Douglas was even there and declared that “10 years ago, Troubled Hubble was Chicago’s favorite boy band, but now they’re Chicago’s favorite man band”. I couldn’t agree more.

The same day my son turned 1, I had an interview for the MBA program at the University of Illinois. On the train ride downtown I closed my eyes, listened to Absinthe Blind, and thought back on my time in Champaign-Urbana. The interview went well and the next day I got a call. “Welcome back to the University of Illinois”.

Nothing is like what it was a little over a decade ago, but at the same time, everything is.