If there is a recurring theme from shows around this time in my life it is the way in which these events acted as milestone markers during my first few years of college that were riddled with relationship troubles. I guess you never know where 'bottom' is when you are on that steady descent to an emotional collapse, but as of the end of 1993, I thought I had been there. More importantly, I thought I was stuck there, which wasn't a good place to be.
My choice of college was predicated somewhat on the notion that I'd be continuing a relationship with the girl I dated my senior year of High School. She was headed to FSU and since my parents weren't keen on my first choice (New College) I decided to take the Seminoles up on their kind scholarship offer and follow my heart off to a school that I wasn't too excited about otherwise. I had been on campus no more than a week when my girlfriend wiggled out of our year-long romance. I probably should have seen it coming but the fact that I didn't was directly related to the reason it happened--I was focusing on things other than HER!
Tallahassee was disorienting and uncomfortable that year. College felt like a mandate from my parents for a lifestyle I wasn't interested in pursuing, and while I knew a handful of people from my school scattered about campus, it was clear that most people were using the break from high school and their parents as a chance to shoot off in new directions. I suppose that's a natural reaction and it's one of the things that probably helps to lead so many people in interesting new directions when it comes to the kind of music they like or movies they watch or things they think about. It's probably a great thing, on the whole, but I was looking for a little bit of familiar comfort and I wasn't finding it anywhere.
I spent a lot of nights not sleeping and not wanting to eat. I went to class in a zombie state most days. I played Minesweeper and Scorched Earth incessantly in those pre-internet days as a diversion. I kept my mind occupied with the simplest, most mundane and repetitive things that I could find so that I didn't fall completely apart. Maybe breakups like that work differently in the internet age with social networking sites, email, IM, and a million other ways to distract from or obsess over such an event. Maybe I would have been able to distract myself in more useful (or more destructive) ways if I'd had access to Myspace, YouTube, and internet porn back then. But in the fall of 1993, there just weren't a lot of good ways for me to deal with being dumped so I became a ball of negative energy that curled up in the windows of my dorm writing letters and listening to mopey songs.
During the Christmas break, Front 242 was playing in Tampa so this seemed like a good way to get back into a familiar routine. I could go the the Ritz, see all of my old friends from the club days in Tampa, and see one of my favorite bands for an hour or so and get back to feeling like something more than a shell. Unfortunately, my musical tastes had rubbed off not only on the ex but on her new boyfriend who went from listening to Guns n Roses to having a truck plastered with KMFDM and Front 242 stickers in the space of about 9 months. There was no avoiding it--they were going to be at this show and the Ritz just wasn't a big enough place to duck them altogether.
Putting on a happy face isn't something that I do well, even now. If I don't want to see you or talk to you, it will probably be obvious. In fact, I usually have the opposite problem of giving off a vibe that I don't want to talk to you even when I do! So it was strange trying to make it through a Front 242 show standing next to the ex's new boyfriend as he jumped around and got into songs that I felt he shouldn't even know. For one thing, this was my music, not his. For another thing, he was trying to be cool with me when he had clearly stolen my girlfriend! He could take my music or my girl, but both? I should have used the pit at the show as a chance to really lay him out, but instead I muttered some sappy, ill-considered advice to him about treating her right and I tried to have a good time.
Front 242 wasn't helping any. By this point, the guys were starting to show their age and the band just didn't have the magic it had only two years earlier. With rave culture taking over everything that involved a drum machine, it seemed like the godfathers of cold, mechanical dance music were somehow embracing shiny clubwear and glowsticks and it just didn't make any sense. Nothing did. The show turned me off from Front 242 for a long time and though I still look back fondly on some of their albums, I remember thinking that 1993 was about when they needed to hang it up for good.
It took me the rest of my Freshman year of college to get to a point where I didn't cringe at the thought of my ex or her new boyfriend. That's not to say that it was smooth sailing from then on out--I had a nice string of botched relationships in college that were all punctuated by shows like this one. I'm glad I saved these ticket stubs though, because a show like this would have been almost entirely forgettable were it not for that drama that seemed at the time like a sure sign of the end of the world.