We did have an excellent time. It was a bit rough around the edges in quite a few places (some important) but it was definitely not con-X-steam.
Check-in to the hotel went pretty smoothly. There were serious questions about a shortage of parking spaces at the hotel, but we got there early enough that we were able to secure a space and get a parking pass.
Registration was quick but a bit sloppy. Pre-registration was done by PayPal shopping cart, so the PayPal account name was the only name on the registration, regardless of how many "VIP Event Passes" one had purchased. We were handed an envelope with my name on it that contained two tickets for the Abney Park concert. We were also handed two blank badges and two flip-style plastic badge holders. We had to write our own badges, and there wasn't any tape or stapler to prevent the badge from falling apart. We weren't handed a program book because they hadn't been delivered yet.
There wasn't a lot of official stuff going on yet. The dealers' room was opening (a smidge late). There was a really cool little shop set up in the atrium. There was a steam car sculpture.
The dealers' room was very full. Many of the convention and faire stalwarts were there: Aziza, Kristi Smart, Margaret Mannatt, Janet Canning, Dark Garden, Pendragon. There were also a ton of interesting folks with strange bits and pieces. Oh, and studiofoglio was there. There seemed to be a bit of confusion with dealer move-in, but some of the folks I talked with mentioned that there was a distinct lack of communication from the convention before the dealers got there.
Since we knew the hotel restaurant was horribly slow, we went to The Fishmarket for a quick dinner. Other folks who went to the restaurant for dinner learned better, but it was a long lesson. Some time after we got back the missing program books appeared. The program book was large, lavish and not terribly well organized.
The big event of Friday night was a dance featuring Brassworks. Since we know Brassworks well, and K has spent way too much time dancing to their music, we bailed on the con and went to trystbat's party. When we got back there was still a parking space for us. We ran into some friends and had a bit of wine before bed.
Saturday featured a bunch of cool programming we didn't go to. Well, a bit of cool programming we didn't go to. There were two tracks of 5 panels each. We mostly spent our time hanging out with friends and chatting with folks. We had lunch at the Korean BBQ across from the hotel, and dinner at the Bombay Garden.
Saturday night's big event was the Platform One/Abney Park concert. We caught a shuttle bus to the concert, and got there about a half-hour before the show was supposed to start. We sat down next to Phil and Kaja, and waited.
Platform One started about half an hour late, but that wasn't a bad thing because there were still bus-loads of people showing up. Transportation had some problems. Platform One turned out to be a goth industrial synthpop band. They were pretty decent, but their songs all tended to be very similar.
Abney Park was an experience unto itself. They're a strange folk-rock band with a really fabulous wardrobe. They were fantastic. We went out to the bus while they were finishing up their last song. This was a good thing, apparently there was a significant delay for the folks who had to wait for the next bus.
We got back to the hotel in time to check out the Leather Tea Party. It was a bit quiet, but there were some fun people there. Again, we adjourned for some wine and talk before bed.
Sunday also featured programming we didn't go to. There were too many people to hang out with. We did sushi for lunch and Mongolian BBQ for dinner.
So all in all, a great weekend, if a somewhat mixed convention. I've got some serious concerns, though, about their plans for next year. They're moving to July, not the best time of the year to be wearing layers and layers of Victoriana. They're also talking about moving to San Francisco, the city where conventions go to die.