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ZOO 2015 Party Report
by Vent/Triad

A hundred C64 fanatics gathered together to celebrate the fourth ZOO party on a gloomy October weekend and brought an old nightclub in the sleepy village of Viiala alive. The party place has not changed too much since its glory days. The interior decoration reminds of the 1980ies, when Viiala's former industrial sites were still going strong and the kids were playing with their sixtyfours after school. Hence the slightly shabby atmosphere of the club matched the weekend's ageless agenda perfectly!

The history of the ZOO parties begins in the late 90s. Back in 1997 Tempest (back then in Damage, later FairLight) decided to organize a C64-only party in the city of Pori, on the west coast of Finland. In 1998 Vent got more involved and the 2nd ZOO party was organized, now in Tampere.

The first two ZOO parties were kind of homespun but sincere events. We were just in our late teens then, while the older generation of sceners were already in their late twenties with families and careers.

But unlike the PC and Amiga scenes back then, that did not seem to be any issue. C64 sceners were open minded and the reception was very positive.

For me there has been a certain spirit present in all the ZOO events right from the beginning. And maybe in general the mindset of C64 sceners is a bit different.

After the highlights of the mid-90s, the millennium was a bad time for the breadbox in Finland. The popularity of the C64 scene was hitting rock bottom and many sceners went for hiatus.

Thinking back, it was kind of a pity to keep the folks waiting for ZOO 1999 for 13 years, as it finally was held in 2013. Things do not always go just as planned, but time surely runs fast! Meanwhile I was doing miscellaneous real life things, focusing less on the demo scene.

Indeed, ZOO 2013 was the 3rd time for the ZOO party. In early 2013 Vent was visiting the local club for the first time and got his eureka moment. A few weeks later, he was having a meeting with Tempest, Abaddon and Biotek (all ex-Damage) and let the slightly drunken cat out of the bag:

Next autumn we'll have the next ZOO party right here!

And so it happened.

ZOO 2013 was held in November and it was a success. The atmosphere was again homespun but sincere. There were more visitors compared to the first two ZOO parties. Apart from the demo competition, the standard of quality for the compo entries were superb. In the high and hype Vent promised that in 2015 it was to be ZOO party time again!

There were lessons to be learned from the 2013 party. Nothing is even close to perfect. Surely one must be happy with the outcome, but if you become too satisfied, you lose your focus and things stop evolving.

So, on the 23rd to the 25th of October, ZOO 2015 was organized by TRIAD, Byterapers and Extend.

The ZOO party place has a small hotel next to the party hall, and the rooms were fully booked in two minutes. Nowadays it is an obligation to have decent sleeping facilities for giving old bones a bit of rest. Folks want to sleep well so they can party hard, thus a good sleeping area is an asset for a successful party.

The biggest disadvantage in the ZOO party site was definitely the lack of sleeping facilities. We could provide beds for 24 guys but that is just barely for every fourth visitor. In the countryside hotels are not found behind every corner. A few rooms were also available in a hotel in the nearby town which helped a bit.

Friday night was dedicated to music, sauna and gaming competitions.

The musical bouquet began with various DJ sets and continued with live performances. The 90's influenced acid warriors of Healium blew the minds and ears with a TB-303 bass lines and treated the audience with their tweaky soundscape created with an impressive rig of vintage synthesizers. Tero performed his C64 electro/acid set with his breadbox for the second time in the history of the ZOO parties. Last time he was seen on stage at ZOO was in 1998!

Having a glance over the party hall one could easily forget what year it really is. This time it really looked like the number of CBM hardware and CRT displays again overruns the number of laptops and flat screens. Old man's eyes rest on the view. The old school atmosphere is almost tangible, only a few laptops break the illusion of glory days revisited.

Ph0bos team took the party gear challenge seriously. They brought a farm of Commodores, SX-64s, several different Amigas, a genuine Commodore flag from the 80s, a Wizard of War arcade game (!) plus loads of other stuff. Banners hung on the walls of the party hall. TRIAD, Byterapers, Atlantis, just to name a few. There was a 2 x 2m monkey face on the wall composed of paper pixels. Matteus/Exotic Men's pop-up art gallery in the lobby plus a collection of poems by Yleisradio (namely 8-bit Tabermann) gave a hint about the party attendants really wanting to collaborate. Vent explains what was cooking behind the scenes:

We introduced a party decoration compo this year. I was very happy to see so much diversity in the entries. Party gear, banners, visual art, a collection of poems... We still have to improve the practical implementation of the compo itself but the entries were great elements for the ambience.

Sauna is of course a crucial feature on any Finnish party. Without one, it would be like leaving your datakalsong at home when travelling to a Swedish party. Some guys actually spent half the party going between the party hall (which was quite cold) and the sauna, wearing only their towels.

The competitions at ZOO 2015 offered a whole bunch of excellent productions. As for the music compo, no less than 23 tunes were handed in, and the party venue rocked to the music as the SID abused the speakers! In the end Zardax ended up winning the gold medal with his tune Malaga, while Juzdie came in on second place with SAAB69 and Rock scored bronze with Rainy Day. Abaddon just missed the podium, but scored a very respectable fourth place with Join the Cosmic Caravan.

The graphics competition was split in two, one for PETSCII and one for everything else, each compo having 12 contributions. As for the PETSCII compo, Electric won with a piece entitled Coltrane, second was Model by Edi and Matteus and on third place 100 Points by Ilesj.

The other graphics compo was won by Ilesj with his Orbital Impaler, consisting of multicolour bitmap plus sprites and utilizing PAL color blending (made for the old VIC-II). Electric came in on second place with Country for old Man while Reekol took home third prize with Papukaija.

On to the main event, the demo competition, which consisted of 14 entries. Extend presented their production Aerial Code which went on to secure the gold medal. The demo contains some original effects and neat transitions. A fixed version was released shortly after the party, since the demo was a bit unstable when looping. All in all, a worthy winner.

Atlantis and F4CG were then awarded the silver medal with ZOOkeeper, and Dekadence came in on third place with Shareware, both solid demos with great feeling.

There were quite some nice productions outside the top three entries as well, so be sure to check them all out! In addition to the already mentioned competitions, also a disk cover compo (won by iNo Smith) and a basic demo compo (won by Jupp3) were held.

Another event at the party was the 8-bit flea market where priceless items were exchanged for useless pieces of paper. The visitors really appreciated this idea and quite some stuff changed hands.

Most of the ZOO party attendees come from Finland but there are also people from Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Russia and Argentina. Octavo/PVM travelled all the way from South America to attend the ZOO party! He explains why:

I thought ZOO was one of the most representative parties in the genre and I wanted to go there. Also we were looking forward to present some PVM productions in Europe.

ZOO party was the first party for him outside Argentina. Actually, there had been quite a break between ZOO and other scene events for him.

Personally I have not visited any other party outside Argentina but I have presented some remote entries. I visited the first demo scene party in Argentina (Flash party) in 1998 and 1999, but it was mainly PC.

He says PVM is an odd bird in the Argentinean demo scene, but the local C64 scene is gradually revived as the group is a driving force in vitalizing the scene.

There are a few guys that do amazing C64 work, like the woz, Alakran, Riq and Akira, but there was no demo scene group based in Argentina that produced C64 stuff. The scene is almost dead in Argentina, so we are trying to recover old talents but also understand that we need to mutate, participate in non-scene spaces and incorporate talents (like Naku, CoMu, petscii cola) that work with old computers and produce great work but don't have a scene background.

Indeed, PVM participated in the music compo with several nice tunes.

In the end, ZOO 2015 turned into yet another smashing event, well worthy of sharing name with the previous line of parties. Good organizing is a key part to any successful party, and this was no exception. Or as Vent puts it:

My bliss is that we had an excellent team helping out. The organizing team has been overwhelmingly motivated and focused. Everything just worked out. Companies would pay top dollars for a team like that! At least I would.

So, what will the future bring when it comes to the ZOO parties?

In 2017 it will be time for the 20th anniversary ZOO party. Our goal is to throw the best ZOO party ever! More features, more fun, more crazy ways to utilize the sixtyfour in the party infrastructure. Let's bring the good old times back to the good old people!


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