Sundown 2009 Party Report

by

Which keeps trying to write itself as Syndown 2009 for some bizarre finger interaction incompetence reason?

22:20hrs. – I-It’s the 11th September 2009, happy twin towers day to you!!

It’s the sort of realtime party report, in a sort of conjuring words from a darkened laptop keyboard sense, which might account for the various myriad misspellings and text malfunctions, multiple restartings etc that I’ve incurred even at this early stage. Anyway, we’re here, after an epic journey of, ooh, many hours across the broken and be-buggered patchwork of UK motorway network linking Budleigh Salterton and Devon with the rest of the planet. But more of that slightly later, as they say.

First impressions are favourable, of a mellow and peaceful place apart from various bigscreen happenings. The party hall, actually the town hall or community centre, is a gentle, suitably mood-lit  and spacious place, there is a hefty generosity of table space to spread out with Mr Dell. This time around I’m opting for a low-key presence, this being the first time at this particular party, so no Atarian gear, apart  from the emulated  versions contained within the laptop, of course. (It might have been a different story, had the soon-arriving ‘UltraSatan’ SD-card storage device had turned up before the party, in which case my STe would have made the trip down too, to take its rightful place in the retro-computer exotic storage device dick swinging contest with the Speccies and Commodorian silicon life-forms present there!)
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This is how the interior of the party hall looked. It had a generally ‘pink’ feel to it, as if we were attending a demo party inside a giant’s mouth!

Drinkies have been served by Felice in extremely large plastic pint safety glasses, but no-one is complaining. The contents are what matters, after all. We’re consuming, ermm, tastes like red vino, what a pleasant surprise.

As the hall is in late night chill-down mode, I’ve not checked too closely on what else is in there. A BBC Master from the olden days of 8-bit mightiness has been set up nearby. It may have been stolen from an unsuspecting school’s stock cupboard? The cupboard which was sealed off as a time capsule from the 1980’s!

23.26.

We’ve been up and around the hall and spoken to lots of people, especially Evil Paul for a long time. He was getting fed up with his blood level peaking over the booze level and was taking urgent steps to remedy this. I’ve spotted a table-full of Commodore hardware, Gasman’s Speccy, and a lone ST (Yaay!) running Neochrome master on it. This belongs to a visiting party from occasional Atari botherers ‘Torment’. There are a few EE-Peecees spotted too among the more normal hardware. In fact, I’ve got the most ‘corporate’ looking laptop in here due to sheer customizing laziness on my part. My Microsoft approved ‘XP-Bleu’ desktop sticks out like a semi-drunk besuited salary-man desperately trying to pull one of the demo group femmes attending the party, and falling flat miserably.

Saturday 12.9,09.

99L31 or 00:41 0′ Damn this semi-darkness! It kills typing!

We’ve been quietly studying ST emulation in its latest Hatari 1.3 guise for a while, including the rather nifty Falcon 030 emulation which is now included, This is now mostly good but still a bit broken in places, especially with the sound, Notable successes include the 2007 Outline invitro from Earx and co. Notable failures include the Avena/Digital Chaos Fried Bits 3 demo ‘Enrage’, which suffered as it could not settle on a screen mode so ended up showing none in the end. The other nice thing is that this laptop is not horribly underpowered for Falcy emulation, which is where my now aged Mini Mac G4 falls down at home.

At the end of the day, good old STEEM was still the best option to run through Checkpoint’s Suretrip 2 demo. Which I did. This is the first time of viewing since the Outline party. it still rules! Now wouldn’t it be nice if someone made a hard disk friendly version for my soon to be arriving UltraSatan?

I’ve not taken a lot of notice of the surrounding party over the last hour. Lots of people seem to be actually working on stuff although there is a high loud drink-assisted chat ratio too.

03.08 hrs

The shouty kitchen rules at parties! (I thought I was giving my tired throat a rest coming here!?)

This was posted on the DHS BBS just now by me, in a more tired than ’emotional’ state.

“Me and Felice are at Sundown. It is 03.00hrs. Typing in near darkness after too much mellowing out juice sucks.”

“You’ve no idea how many wrong attempts have actually preceded this final post ;-)”

“It’s a really nice party, I hope I can start to make more sense of it tomorrow in the cold light of day.”

Somehow I don’ t think this will be a long report? (Nonsense, it just needs a bit of finessing!)

10.15 – The real morning, none of that pretend stuff!

Gawd, we did drink a bit last night, did we not? There was a hint of hangover which was swiftly banished with the help of some effective breakfasting.

I’ve slept a thespian sleep, in a tangled forest of stage curtains, behind the stage. There is no set-aside sleeping area, just grab where you can. I managed to get a private alcove surrounded by these curtains which is probably the most intimate space available here. The good news is that the party noise activity had totally tailed off by the time my head hit the inflatable sack at 04.00hrs, so apart from the “usual” rhythmic sleeping noises, there were no disturbances as such. There is a party house rule which limits the volume at a very late hour, out of deference to the local population of Budleigh Salterton, many of whom have had to be carbon-dated to establish their age.

There is a not totally scurrilous rumour going around here that the massed gathering at Sundown 09 has pulled the average age profile in Budleigh down to the point where they need a bus pass, but they are not yet requiring help to get up and have a wee.

We have also breakfasted on our pre-purchased supplies in the surprisingly well-equipped kitchen. The selection, made by myself earlier yesterday, is intended to resemble the staple items of the Outline party style of breakfast. This happily includes a supply of constantly on tap hot hot beverage friendly water, and a microwave oven so strong, it is used in classified defence experiments, maybe? In addition to all of that, there is the sultry promise of a second breakfast of bacon rolls sometime in the next hour.

People are returning to life slowly, but the ambience is still more sleepy than anything, some people are outside eagerly grabbing the last traces of summer as it is a glorious day. I’ll join them in a bit.

# Journey Down! # – Time to say a few words about our travel travails.

Around 16,00hrs yesterday, Northampton, a world away – An automotively equipped Felice putters down our street with a car loaded with me, and stuff. We’re trying for the rather unique sensation of sampling the whole demo party experience without having to leave these shores. This has the advantage of cutting the overall journey time and leaving out the expensive ‘getting across the wet bit in the middle’ part. The downside is that the hours that we do travel included some tedious motorway episodes.

Felice utilised the TomTom in his head to route us close to a Friday rush-hour choked Birmingham. As subsequent radio traffic reports showed, this was actually the least worst option available, any alternate route had an accident and closures on it. The most enduring motorway-based ennui came when passing through Avonmouth/Bristol with a roadworks cunningly designed to make the worst of the situation. This was a tedious travellers tale that just about all the partygoers had in common. Unless some people managed a beach landing directly on the shingly sea front at Budleigh Salterton? Arrival, allowing for a couple of deliberate stops, the above-mentioned delays and a little searching around Budleigh Salterton itself from where the unspecific directions ran out, was around 21.30 hrs. We clearly  managed to avoid going too far as there was no loud splash at the end.

And that was the journey down. As the first notes from last night hinted, the party was already in a late night lockdown with a fair amount of alcoholic consuming going on, which we felt compelled to quickly join in with.

11:44

Confounding my expectation of no catering being provided in the party, we have just consumed the free bacon roll, cooked by the hand of rc55, the party organiser head person. We’ve also found Topy of Trabant owning fame who is also wearing an Outline 2009 T-shirt, the top garment of choice if you happened to have been to that memorable party. What are the chances of that happening? He asks. Rather good, I reply! An automotive conversation follows in the late morning sunshine, just outside the party hall. Apart from one or two nasty details, he thinks it would be possible to convert a Trabant to right hand (UK) drive. But you have to like hardware hacking to some degree to do it properly. (The most intractable part of this changeover would be relocating the gear shift, which is mounted on the dashboard on the left hand side and connected directly to the transmission which can’t be moved itself, which means that driving a right hand Trabi would then become a two person operation!)

13.09

I’ve been down the beach with mOd and friend. I managed to stay compliant with local by-laws and avoided dog-fouling. I also did not go any faster than 8 knots either. I guess not being shaped like a boat might have helped in the latter case. The beach is shingly with lots of pebbles underfoot, There was enough swooshy wave action for mOd to be caught unawares and fall whilst trying to run backwards away from an unexpectedly far travelling wave. We spent a lot of the time there trying to throw as many pebbles as possible back into the sea, which kept bringing them all back. We eventually tired of this canute-like endeavour and headed back into town. The rest of Budleigh high street is the (un)usual small town mix of the mundane and eye-poppingly weird. The latter category including a shop that reflects the twin obsessions of the owner, selling scale models of cars, buses and trains alongside born-again christian literature in the same shop window. Budleigh also has the distinction of hosting the most paranoid Chinese restaurant in Britain, but more of that later!
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No further comment or elaboration needed, this was a real distraction from the party at hand.

It almost feels like a disincentive to force oneself to stop at the party with such a pristine piece of showmanship for late summer on the beach as a rival attraction? Note for next time, if the weather is going to be lovely in a mid-September fashion next year, maybe we try to get down here as early as possible and enjoy a day chilling out at the seaside whilst the rest of the party is still arriving and setting up.

14.25

We are eating the lunchtime stuffs which were purchased from a busy Co-op mini-mart place in town. There is a timetable which kicks off at 15.00 and looks pretty busy thereafter.. I guess we’ll duck out from one of the music compo’s for the evening meal.

One of the party orga’s is an Orb fan, judging by the choice of music from the main speakers.

16:13

The preceding hour has been filled with silliness, faux-quizzes, bad musical impersonations and total randomness, including forced eating of chilli-sauce flavoured pringles, in the ritual known as Meaty’s quiz. Fortunately, none of this demands much audience participation apart from ironic applause and sarcastic remarks. All of the above works really well, in a way which is hard to explain if you are not already there. Me bombarding an uncomprehending readership with in-jokes rarely works, so I won’t on this occasion. There will be some real competitions later on. This is also the point at which you realise that you did not sleep nearly enough last night.

So went off for a bit to sort that out. Clunk, ZzzZZ! (Well more of a doze really.)

17:05 and back with caffeine, and awaiting the first (graphics) competitions. Which will not be until around 6.pm. Ho hum.

17.35 – Wine opened, Felice brought in fresh supplies, hurrah to him! So tonight’s slow spiral of decline starts here….

18.25 – Still no competition but we have spoken to Alex Holland, keeper of the Thalion Shrine who turned out without much pre-warning, which was nice. He was interested to see we were running emulated Atari’s but was here with a mini-mig Amiga thing, so he was thusly embracing the dark side today!

19.39

My fingers are sticky with the residue of Chinese food and my mind is gummed with the comprehension of STILL NO COMPETITIONS! – Have they brought in last year’s Alt Party team to run the compo’s or what?!

We went out for our evening meal to an interesting local Chinese takeaway. We had heard reports in-party from various people that it was a place with an agenda going beyond the mere serving of food. Our walking tour soon located these premises and we headed in. The food ordering was normal enough. What was very strange were the numerous pasted submissions, collages, comments, notices and handwritten pleas to be delivered from the forces of evil, whether they be the Illuminati, the antichrist, or the income tax office and bankruptcy courts. There were clearly “issues” going on here, and the owners of the restaurant either had a lot of problems, or a massive persecution complex. Still, I took a picture of ‘Peace Chicken’ when it was quiet and no-one looking. I guess he’ll come to the rescue?

Unfortunately, I ordered him to be served enclosed within batter balls and with a sweet and sour sauce, so that won’t happen then!

DSC02721

So what’s a legal wrong then?

Felice has over-ordered, managing to add special fried rice to the order as a ‘meal within a meal’ before he realised what he had done, so after eating my own substantial meal, I’ve been lending a hand, or fork with his. (Buuurp!)

Sunday – 00.13

Some considerable time after the last log entry.

We’ve had some nightmare live competition moments, where the organisers opted to do everything on the spur of the moment, and seemed to be constantly surprised by the many potholes of error and confusion that they fell down on the way. The music competitions suffered particularly, with one entry seeming to wreck swathes of equipment. There were a lot of agonised pauses by the time we got the oldschool demos underway. To make up for that, there were a decent number of entries, including a reasonable life-sign intro from Torment on the ST, and a couple of smashers on some decently obscure platforms, namely a full on megademo on the BBC Master mentioned earlier in the text. This was running entirely in mode 7 ‘teletext’ graphics, which is great for memory conservation and not a lot else. There was a lot of videoclip or effects, so some kind of video streaming or intensive data packing took place here?

Barely a step behind was a pretty nifty ZX81 (16k) demo from Noice which even included a hi-res fullscreen effect using some dirty hack which would set Sir Clive Sinclair’s beard on fire, A ZX Speccy demo from Ate Bit was notable for using the tape loading process to deliver parts of a demo on the way to loading its end product. Not to mention the 1 kilobyte music demo on the Speccy which was also an audience favourite.

There is a little matter of some newschool stuff to come shortly, whatever  that  might mean?! I’ll whinge about competition running later!

01.25

A shortish newschool competition concludes proceedings. Some good intros, some less convincing demos and only a handful of the latter. A party of the hardened partygoers have apparently made good their promise to go down to the stumbly uneven beach, in the dark. Several people with shovels have been sent after to dig a mass grave for them.

I’ll close down here for tonight, finish up in the morning.

09.27

Well a party of the hardened partygoers went down the beach and I took myself along with a follow-up team to join in. There were about twenty or thirty Sundowners who were reveling in the flickering light of a bonfire made from driftwood and random burny stuff. I declined the ankle-breaking opportunities inherent in the beach’s shinglescape and made it intact with the illuminating assistance of an LED pen-torch. Most other lighting was with the background of countless glowsticks, including some intrepid people who started to melt these in the fire and ‘paint’ random pebbles with their luminous droplets.

There was one serious and several silly attempts at slow capture photography and light graffiti with said glowsticks. It was a clear night, the moon was out and the stars were clearly visible overhead. In short, the perfect ending to the party. I decided to call it a night and shuffled back through a completely deserted town centre and back to the partyplace for bed shortly before 03.00 which is when the timer clock on my bladder would have expired.

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The real party is on the beach!

So now we’re on the second morning after, no hangover symptoms. The drinking did not get going for me in the same way as the previous night which may not have been a bad thing, and it’s time to round up this party report.

Sundown, the summing up…

The party considered – Sundown fits nicely into my mental map for pleasant experiences with the smaller to medium sized parties I’ve been to before. It is about the size of one of the earlier editions of Outline. Maybe less than a hundred people, but not that far off. The atmosphere is intentionally relaxed and laid back, a number of factors to be discussed shortly contribute to this feeling.

The location – (Hall) Budleigh Salterton Town Hall makes a rather good location for a party of this scale. It manages to be roomy and accommodate everyone without feeling squashed. The table space (two people per table) was generous, especially on a first visit with a minimal hardware presence (laptops only.) The partygoer does not feel cramped or crammed in. The hall is not completely ideal, it does have some superior facilities, such as a very good kitchen, which allows plenty of space and equipment for food preparation and consumption. On the other hand, there is no proper bathroom, as in showers, so perhaps two to three days is the longest a party can be sustained here? Sleeping arrangements tend to fall towards the ad-hoc, but there is plenty of spare space where you can remove yourself from the party hall. The other helpful aspect is there is a policy of keeping things quiet later on, partly out of consideration for the local elderlies, but also with a growing realisation that the majority of people attending Sundown are now after their first flush of wild and drunken youth.

The location – (Budleigh Salterton) – A seaside town, when September chooses to smile on you is a serious distraction from the business of partying, especially in Devon, in an area of outstanding natural beauty. I managed to get some beach time, which was described earlier in the report, not to mention the “real party is outside” themed episode late last night. Budleigh is an endearingly strange place, the average citizen is of a rather senior age. However, letting this party happen at all is a big plus in their favour. I learned at some point that this hall is used for Gaming LAN parties, so the idea of loads of youngish people with computers taking up residence in their community hall is not so alien as it might first appear to the overage Budleigh Saltertonians. Usefully, the LAN party is acting as a gateway drug for the demo party to take place!

Competitions – Is it me, or are competition organizers in general regressing, going senile and losing life skills as I get older? I remember going to the Error in Line parties back in 1999 to 2003 which generally ran smoothly in this area. They pre-recorded entries and these got shown more or less at the appointed times without any, lets say, unexpected delays or hold-ups in the actual entry showing process. This seems to be the gold standard benchmark to judge the rest by. Most other parties that I’ve since been to, including the rather expanded Alt Party last year seem to have taken a balls-out high risk live showing policy, which then goes horribly wrong. Sundown ’09 adds another chapter to this. It’s getting to the point where I’m getting nervous about sitting out a competition showing, as these appear to consist of a string of errors and embarrassments without a tangible end in sight? However, to make up for this, the entries were of high quality, particularly a well stocked oldschool demo competition.

People – I’ve got a small confession to make, I’m piss-poor at putting names to faces until I’ve got to know the people in question a bit more. I’ve spoken to a lot of friendly people without really remembering who they are. One or two of them were female and rather appealing in an uber geek chick kind of way. I had a nice chat with MegMeg, the  female half of the Beeb-bothering crew Neurotypical. rc55 was a fine host, even if he did sound like the head steward on a holiday airways flight camply apologizing for said flight encountering turbulence on a flight to Spain, especially when the competitions weren’t going to plan. It was nice to remeet an old Outline face, Topy, keeper of the Trabi, but he had left it wisely at home, figuring that it might be euthanised by an overkeen ‘Elf and safety” inspector over here, whose prime mission is to condemn and destroy that which does not conform to their narrow world view. We got talking to Gasman a lot of the time, another face from past parties elsewhere. There was a long and lubricated chat with EvilPaul.

We had a lot of chatting with Steve, aka Stavros, aka ‘Stav’ who we had a fair bit in common with. Rather late in the day we got talking to Spiny of Torment. We managed to bump into Alex Holland, who remembered us from the very memorable STNICCC 2000 party in Karsmakers-land.

Of almost no interest to anyone, the journey back was a weary reverse-run of the journey over, without the darkness, more hold-ups around Bristol but fewer delays around Birmingham. Which just about concludes this part of the report.

So the crucial question the end of this report has been waiting for. Is this a party which has that all-important “must come back factor”? Hell yes it does!

CiH, for Low Res Mag, Sept/Oct 2009.

3 Responses to “Sundown 2009 Party Report”

  1. Ruairi 'rc55' Fullam Says:

    Hey CiH,

    I just wanted to say thanks for doing such a great party review. I’m glad you guys had fun. Also, big respect for being frank and open about your criticisms about the party which of course I wholeheartedly agree with. The competitions were run unacceptably late – I took on too much at one point and really have to thank Syphus and Ne7 for saving my bacon as my head was totally shot around 3pm on the Saturday.

    Hope to see you guys at a party soon, maybe Breakpoint if they announce it, or maybe you’ll be tempted to come to Sundown 2010 this September.🙂

    One thing of note – it’s incredibly hard to get any kind of venue for demoparties because a lot of councils insist on having security guards hired 24/7. It’s hard to balance all the needs at once, which revolve around insurance/liability/LAN/Power/tables/chairs/hire fees/etc – and Budleigh, as crazy as it is (I only actually ever go just to run Sundown), has a chilled out enough council to let us run an event like this.

    Anyhow, thanks again.😀

    Ruairi

    • ThorN Says:

      Thanks to CiH’s report, The Sundown rocket to the top of my list of Mediterranean parties to visit next year

  2. CiH Says:

    Ruairi,

    Your comments about the issues encountered as a party organiser gives me an idea for an article for next time.

    I’ll be firing some questions, perhaps in an interview format your way soon😉

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