Icons 07 party report by DiamonDie

The Alternative Party was supposed to be organized again earlier this year, but unfortunately that plan never carried through. Luckily some folks decided that we could still have a party in Helsinki at the beginning of 2007. Traction and the rather fittingly named Demoni, the student association of Stadia's art and communication students, brought us Icons, which was introduced as a "demo/artparty" and "demoscene and new media event" and held on the 16th to 18th of February.

I arrived at the party place at 18 on Friday, an old red brick building housing the art and communication school. I bought my wristband from the two girls at the infodesk. Jobe later complained that when people come to Icons they see pretty girls, when people come to Stream they first see him. The party hall was huge and fairly empty when I arrived. There were two screens, a bigscreen with sofas and benches in front of it, and a smaller one dedicated to the Wii. A little after my arrival demos started running on the bigscreen starting with Live Evil.

Soon after the party place started to fill up. Megamies spent quite a while cutting out the edges off his 18-page rasterbated Jumalauta banner. Jumalauta held a practice game for their UNO tournament, with Waffle, rm, sauli, Jalava and some other folks participating. Later tribe, jobe and megamies joined the table. The first "foodwave" also arrived, bringing people a bunch of pizzas, curry and other fast food they had ordered straight from the partynet. This would happen many more times during the party.

The venue was a big maze, but luckily the organizers had placed plenty of info signs around so that visitors wouldn't get lost. The facilities were great, such as the café run by the Demoni people, with a selection of food and drinks on sale for cheap prices. I was particularly fond of their tea selection, which included seasoned black teas and rooibos. There was also a microwave oven you could use for free. Beer and cider were being sold as "lottery tickets" that always won a prize, in order to not break the Finnish laws regarding alcohol sales.

The café also served as a great place for hanging around or using your laptop. The natural media compo entries were exhibited at the back of the room, except for sauli who was entered by Geel and jobe. They explained that due to the organic nature of the entry it could not be contained to the exhibition area. The other entries included paintings of astu and mine, nosfe's large photo prints presented together with some VHS tapes on the table, megamies's bag that was made out of floppy disks, the Jumalauta banner and Kettlers of Satan, Little Bitchard's framed LCD screen running some demo effects.

I found out that only two people had entered the live wild compo, so I spontaneously signed up to recite a poem even though I didn't yet have any idea which poem to even read. Fortunately I had them on my website (except for the particular one I would have chosen). The first compo, Flashscene.org's Flash compo started at 22. The entries were restricted to 32 KB, but the MP3 music was not included in that. All the compos were presented with all the necessary texts in Wordpad on the screen.

Unic0rn's LCD was shown first and it had a great soundtrack, but provoked laughter when it didn't have any animation at first. On the second try it ran properly, but for quite a while there were no effects but an RGB textured tunnel. Some of the other entries could have used some more design too, even though there were cool effects and 3D. Evoflash again had a great entry, even though it obviously wasn't as polished as their demo that won the Flash compo at last Assembly.

Before the live wild compo the first entrant Valmet Children (wAMMA members) did a soundcheck(?), which mostly revolved around adding sound effects to the word "pippeli". DDT replied by yelling very loudly "emätin!". I don't think those words need any translations. When the compo began the group continued to present noise accompanied with some screen visuals. Nosfe continued with a show where he twisted, pulled and bit on the cables of a Behringer mixer to create different kinds of noise. Then it was time for my performance. Apparently people were worried that I would sing, but instead I recited my short poem and at least the audience was happy that it didn't take longer.

Organizers presented a cool "demo" live in Wordpad, using tildes as sinewaves, WingDings for graphics and such, with Setok beatboxing the soundtrack. After the compo rm played a short DJ set on the stage. I bumped into astu who acclaimed something like "What the fuck?! I thought you were dead!" but refused to tell me how or when I was supposed to have died. He also offered me a plastic bag that was supposed to contain blood, but I refused. Some of the Valmet Children guys came to ask me for an autograph on their shirts, they said they wanted everyone's autograph.

The dance music compo started at 00:30 with "its 2007 and im tracking". It seemed a slightly bland at first but developed into a full-bodied pumping tune. Perhaps the boost in volume also helped. The second track "Progress is a headache" also sounded good, albeit a bit more monotonic. People weren't yet dancing, just jamming on the sofas. Kyberorgiat was a great hit tune that quickly got a bunch of people dashing for the dance floor. Sauli's unfinished tune was played next and while it wasn't bad it didn't really compare to the previous one.

Sadly I had to then leave to catch a bus somewhere where I could actually sleep. I returned to the party place a little before 16 on Saturday, when Jumalauta's UNO compo was just about to begin. I was asked to participate but I decided to skip this time. Sauli, Rasputina, jobe and rm were playing and many others had gathered to watch and photograph. Jobe would have won the first game, but he apparently screwed up and so Rasputina was the winner and advanced to the final round.

Meanwhile the listening music compo started with two fairly traditional uplifting tunes, Taistoonvalmistautuminen and Subway Groping Theme, both sounded good to me. Take two was a bit darker and more monotonic track that would have fared in the dance compo as well, while Fusion Dream was a more ambient tune. en la oscuridad delivered mellow female vocals and Treat featured a guy singing. Digital Bitch had a very slow melody, but rather interesting sounds.

The second round of UNO started with myumi, gr and some others. I lost count of how many preliminary rounds of the game were played. Jalava wore sunglasses while playing as if it had been a game of Texas Hold'Em or something. The UNO final included biini, pahamoka, Rasputina, Sauli and some others I forgot. In the end pahamoka emerged as the ultimate master of the game. The music compo was still running, as there was a total of 17 entries.

Six described itself as an IDM tune, nice even if nothing outstanding. 4th Place was made with Playstation Music2000 and sounded quite good. No 1 was a rap song that sounded like Setok to me. Female vocals were again featured in Tonight. Amnesiac Lullaby was an ambient tune like its name implied. I liked the chilled out atmosphere and sounds in Morning Absorbations In The Evening. The quality in the compo as a whole seemed quite high. The technical side and the abundance of vocal tunes made it seem very different compared to the old standards of music compos mostly consisting of modules.

The drawn graphics compo started a little late at 17:30. The first entry was Running with Lasers, quite a simple looking picture but who doesn't like lasers. My abstract B&W drawing Spotted Mind was shown second. Destructors featured a gerbil/hamster and a robot. And that was about it, as there were only three entries. I really hope that there will still be drawn graphics compos in the future. Music is already dominating, as is easy to see from the number of entries and the fact that there was a fast music compo, but no fast graphics.

The fast music compo only had three entries as well, maybe there would have been more if it hadn't been held so early in Saturday afternoon. The first one was dedicated to me: "Diamondie voittaa kaikki kompot" (DiamonDie wins all the compos), which wasn't too bad. I liked the last entry "my knife cuts you" the most, it had nice dynamics with some jungle and IDM like sounds. During the compo our group's coder appeared on IRC. It turned out that our demo hadn't been finished because he had crashed with a severe bout of the flu. Oh well, it will hopefully be released later.

After the compo someone started playing Sabrina's Boys Boys Boys on the bigscreen with the volume pretty much at the max. It was followed by Aphex Twin's kickass video Ventolin. That started a long YouTube marathon. I went out for a little walk to check out the surroundings of the place. The Vantaa river was located just about 50 m behind the party place. It was all frozen of course, even though the weekend was very warm for a Finnish February, with plus degrees Celsius (the week after the party we had -20°C again). Quite a beautiful sight even in the dark.

The animation/short film compo was presented next. The first entry was Jumalauta's demo-like video the Modern Drug for pain. ISO's a modern day interpretation of a music video was a traditional ISO production with MS Paint graphics that always greatly amuse the people present, but cause great WTFs at Pouet later. Dragon Magic showed a video where Blueflame - sorry, Count Skullcrusher - is bowling and flings the ball straight to the gutter.

Jumalauta also had a second entry titled saksalainen vitsi (a German joke) which wasn't particularly funny. BoozemblyTV people had made a movie about the last moments of the Boozembly grill from last Assembly. That one seemed to last for ages, the length restriction in the compo was an unusual 10 minutes. Not surprisingly it invoked a huge round of applause (perhaps some sobbing too) and was declared the winner on the spot.

The wild compo was followed by even more videos, then the 64k intro compo which was strangely shown before the 4k one. I guess that was because some people hadn't finished their 4k yet - the party had very flexible deadlines and you could practically submit entries until the start of the compo, or even later. Jumalauta got to start with an entry which was pretty Jumalauta-like, with an IDM soundtrack. Purple's Youth Uprising wasn't really to my tastes, too Replay-like, but others seemed to enjoy it. Flo's intro was esoteric and psychedelic, as usual (and provoked a controversial response, as usual).

There were three entries in the 4k compo, which finally started at 22:10 with Jumalauta's mobile entry, which was quite nice, though that's all I remember about it. RNO had a nice Amiga intro with great music. But the clear winner of the compo was Avaruusromua by Unknown Artists, not because there was anything groundbreaking in it, but because there was a lot of content which was pleasantly presented.

Due to the previous delays the freestyle graphics compo was delayed until 22:30. There weren't too many entries, but at least more than in the drawn graphics. Strangely just one of the entries was a photo, a picture of a pierced nipple titled "coder porn". The entries I remember the best were Demo cube, a cube with a face on one side, and Geneerinen Örkki, a painting of a zombie with the text "Punk is undead". I entered a fractal myself.

Before the demo compo I wandered around the place to make my mind a little more alert, chatted to osyn for a bit and saw Truck sitting in a rocking chair. He says he finds it very soothing. Who doesn't. Just before the compo started they showed an additional sixth entry to the wild compo, a video of someone playing Track and Field, which provoked a huge wall of applause.

The demo compo started at 23 or so and people gathered in the audience seats in front of the party hall. There was a total of ten demos, though I can't really remember much from all of them. There was supposed to be a separate interactive/dynamic demo compo, but unfortunately there weren't enough entries for it. Traction had made a dynamic demo, but unfortunately it ran so poorly on the compo PC that the organizers decided to disqualify their own production.

I really liked Jumalauta's demo full flower. Sure it looked more like a 64k intro, but at least it had that asskicking factor. WAMMA's Grandt Theft Mod was a classy take on the Timbaland issue and not surprisingly the audience loved it. At that point it would have been easy to predict it as the winner. The Scene.org Awards invitation was an enjoyable Nintendo DS demo which made use of the second screen in the ending - but later I heard that it was faked because they didn't get it to work in time.

Adapt's Constant Glow was the most demo-like demo in the compo and made for quite an enjoyable watch. WAMMA presented a second demo Lasertime which was made for Atari 2600, something you don't see too often. It was rather good too, including a fairly realistic water effect. It was run on an emulator in the compo and crashed, but it works on the real thing. Farbrausch's demo was showed last in the compo which seemed intentional. Other people seemed highly impressed, but for me it was just another boring fr demo which did nothing but make me feel sleepy.

After the democompo Takomo played a set on the stage. I again wandered aimlessly around the party place. The lobby was mostly filled with the Demoni folks (I think), who were moshing and dancing to some metal music so wildly that a few of them ended up on the floor. At 00:45 or so I decided to leave, as I'd have to get up early enough to get back to see the prize giving ceremony.

I got back a little before 12 on Sunday. People were looking very tired as usual, some were still dozing off in sleeping bags in the party hall. Jobe and stonda were amusing themselves by looking at funny and gory pictures on one of the public Ubuntu terminals. I found out that during the night DDT had bought all the drink lottery tickets and had been selling them for crazy black market prices. I also later heard that someone had purposefully messed up his OSX laptop by changing the filenames of just about all folders, but I don't know if this was done for revenge - or vice versa.

When I arrived thoron had said that the prize giving wouldn't be late, but at 12 they announced it would be delayed by 20 minutes. There were loading bars in Wordpad on the screen. In the end the ceremony began at 12:30. Unfortunately it was the weak link of the party. The results were shown in the Wordpad, but not clearly presented, which caused a lot of confusion. It even led to ilmarque being mistakenly awarded the prize for the dancing music, even though he actually placed #3 and had to give the prize to rm. He probably wasn't too mad about that, since he won the first prize in the other two music compos anyway.

I and many others were not at all fond of the fact that each compo had been seemingly arbitrarily assigned 1-3 prizes, and only the prize recipients were announced, not the whole TOP-3, even though it wasn't like the ceremony had to be finished in a hurry or anything. Some of the winners and ranks were quite surprising to me, such as nosfe winning both live wild and natural media. I wouldn't have expected wAMMA members to win so many compos either.

As a whole Icons was a great party for sure. It feels weird to compare today's parties to ones eg. five years ago, when a common demoparty offered compos, boozing (outdoors) and not much else. If parties want to improve their services further, next we're going to have jacuzzis or something. I just wonder why so many demosceners living in Helsinki stayed home. Many cited being broke, but I doubt that half of the scener population in Helsinki was suddenly broke at the same time. Either there wasn't enough advertising, or maybe the scene really is dead. With 10 demos and a total of 34 music compo entries and DDT doing black market sales with beer lottery tickets, at least it's going out with the boots on.