M3秋2019: Attending M3 for the First Time

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend M3, one of Japan’s biggest interactive multimedia events that is essentially the Comiket of music.  M3 is a great opportunity for aspiring artists and record labels because they are able to rent a booth and distribute their music in addition to connecting with other artists and fans.  I like this kind of event because it preserves the culture of physical music distribution and a lot of the music sold here is unavailable online so you won’t be able to find it elsewhere.  The same goes for the merchandise (such as hats and bags) as well.  There is also a space where you can freely listen to select music with your own headphones or have the option of renting some.  It’s very exciting to wander around here because you can literally see the happiness of people as they connect with the artists they love.

Getting to M3

M3 takes place at Tokyo Ryutsu Center, which consists of six exhibition stalls and a conference center with multiple floors.  This complex is actually really close to Haneda airport, so I rode the local Tokyo-Monorail towards Haneda-Airport Terminal 2 to reach it.  The event goes from 11:00 – 15:30, and I arrived at 11:30 just to avoid the initial crowds.  My timing was perfect because it only took me around 5 minutes to register and I was able to visit the 3 booths that I wanted.  The entrance fee is 1500 yen, plus it includes a guide with all of the participants listed and a map which is quite handy.

Navigating M3

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The floorplan of M3秋2019.

Navigating M3 is quite daunting at first, because each booth is identified with a letter and a series of numbers.  The booths are placed side by side and there’s a lot going on so it’s really easy to walk past the one you’re looking for.  Not only do they use all 26 letters of the English alphabet in the booth naming system, but they also use Japanese hiragana and katakana consonants and vowels as well.  There is very little English guidance and I don’t think much of the staff speaks English, so I would strongly recommend researching the artists/circles you’re interested in and finding exactly where their booth is placed before you come here.  It is extremely fun to wander around, but sadly there is not enough time to fully experience each and every artist’s music as this is only a one day event.  I would advise you to plan ahead so you can make the most of your time here.

Buying Music at M3

The CD I was most interested in buying was TVR Compilation Vol. 1, which is from a relatively new independent label in Asia.  One of my favorite artists who I’ve written about before; in the blue shirt, has released a rare song that is only obtainable at M3.

Here is the preview of the compilation that was uploaded a few weeks before:

Fortunately when I arrived there were multiple copies of the compilation I wanted, and the people running the booth were quite friendly and gave me an extra CD along with my purchase so it was an extremely good experience.  The compilation was only 1000 yen and was more than worth the cost.  All of the artists on the compilation have experience in the music industry, so it was quite the noteworthy compilation.

The first time I ever saw in the blue shirt at Lounge Neo in 2017, he played the song 「Dreamin’ of You」as an exclusive song in his set.  I’ve wanted the song for the longest time but I could never obtain it until now.  Finally in 2019 it was officially released as a part of this compilation, and I am very happy to officially have it in my collection now!

In addition to TVR’s booth, I also checked out the booths for Miraicha and Lipgloss Records.  I bought some merch for my friends overseas who couldn’t be here, and also picked up the Departure CD early that a lot of artists I know have collaborated on.  While I was here I saw so many familiar names of Japanese artists like IOSYS and ave;new that I listened to in high school through the internet, so I felt extremely nostalgic even though it was my first time here.  I had an amazing time even though I was only here to purchase a few things.  It truly felt like a dream to be here.

Closing Remarks

Overall M3 is a really friendly event that is perfect for networking and sharing music.  All of the music and merch is extremely affordable (most CDs are sold for 1200 yen on average), and I like knowing that all of the profits go to the artists and record labels (in addition to the booth rental fee).  M3 is quite comparable to Comiket, but not as big and daunting.  The size of the event center was enough to accommodate all of the artists and crowds of people, so I was relieved that I didn’t have to deal with long wait lines or commuter traffic on the trains.  All of the artists I talked to were happy to meet me, so I left the event center with an extremely good feeling.  If you love Japanese music as much as I do, please consider checking M3 out!

*M3 is a seasonal event, so you can check the latest information on their official website here.

LARGE SIZE at Kyoto Metro

Last weekend, I traveled all the way from Tokyo to Kyoto to attend a thrilling electronic music event called LARGE SIZE at the underground music club Kyoto Metro.  LARGE SIZE not only featured Japanese indie artists from the Kansai region (Kyoto and Osaka), but also Trekkie Trax Crew from Tokyo, and isagen (the event organizer) from Shizuoka, Japan, along with a selection of other talented music producers from around the area.

Located in the basement Jingu-Marutamachi Station of Kyoto City, this was a highly-anticipated event that united many music fans from all over Japan because it showcased talent from some of the most well-known independent record labels and underground artists that are currently trackmaking and producing music.  In this article, I aim to introduce the artists I saw and write recommendations of their music in English.

The original timetable for this event was listed below (note that “Carpainter” is actually the correct spelling of the artist listed at 17:30).  The event lasted for approximately 5 hours, and tickets were originally sold at 2800 yen (purchasable online, and for extra money at the door):

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Arriving at close to the start of the event, I was luckily able to see the majority of isagen’s 50 minute set.  isagen produces his own desktop music, DJs at events, and also is the trackmaker for his band unit called POLPTOM.  In 2018, isagen released an EP on Trekkie Trax called c.b.a.g, which you can listen to on his Soundcloud below:

Though this EP is tagged as dance and EDM, you can tell from the very beginning that it is not the typical kind of dance music you expect!  isagen’s music really has a unique vibe sounding both progressive and abstract at the same time.  As the event organizer, he did an amazing job of making the crowd excited and earning the respect of other artists, even though he was the opener!  I was surprised to see the club was already crowded at opening time, and the majority of people there had their full attention directed at his performance.  Though I have seen isagen perform in Tokyo before, I could tell that he put a lot of work into ensuring that this was one of his best performances yet!

The next artist was one of my personal favorites, in the blue shirt from Kyoto City.  Having previously announced the release of his new album in April via Twitter, everyone was surprised to see him open with his own banger remix of “If I ain’t got you” by Alicia Keys and then mix his newly produced music into it:

in the blue shirt will always be one of my top artists because he puts so much of himself into his music, and each time her performs he plays exclusive and unreleased songs that you can only hear during his performances.  His music will make you feel nostalgic, energized, moved, and inspired at the same time.  Using a complex range of samples and chords, below is one of my favorite mixes he has uploaded to his Soundcloud:

Another reason I love in the blue shirt is because he designs a lot of his own merchandise. His sticker is an adorable digital drawn mascot that resembles Parappa the Rapper, and his clothes feature a blue shirt logo he created himself with Adobe Illustrator:

Since his performances are relatively rare, I always pick up his merchandise whenever I get the chance!  Not only is it fashionable, but it is also comfortable and a truly magnificent display of aesthetic art.  I was extremely grateful to see this set before the official promotion of his new album!

Next up was Pasocon Music Club (パソコン音楽クラブ) who played an absolutely amazing acid techno set.  They are a duo that write a lot of desktop music resembling nostalgic game music, but recently they have been trying out a variety of styles.  People around me went really hard during their set and I enjoyed seeing them for the 2nd time!  Previously I saw them at an event called STRUCT in Osaka, and it was amazing because people remembered me (as one of the few foreigners) that attended!  Here is one of my favorite releases Pasocon Music Club has had on Maltine Records:

Though I was already mindblown from the high quality of music I had already witnessed, this was still just the very beginning of the fantastic sets I was about to hear.  Carpainter‘s live set featuring songs from his recently released Declare Victory EP (which was officially on-sale the day before LARGE SIZE), was absolutely earth-shattering!  I will write a separate review for Declare Victory at a later time, but for now here is the featured track which I recorded below:

Though this EP was just recently released, Carpainter has had this music produced for a while now.  During Trekkie Trax’s 6th Anniversary on the weekend of Halloween, he played a set that was entirely breakbeat, techno, and old school rave-styled with a bunch of tracks that he would later release February of 2019.  What’s even more amazing is that Virtual Self dropped Carpainter’s “Sylenth Warrior” along with Otira’s remix of “Mission Accepted” at their set in the US just less than a week before they came out:

Watching this all unfold at an underground club outside of Tokyo was an amazing experience!  I enjoyed the change of scenery and also meeting new friends that shared similar tastes and feelings about these artists.  I connect to Japanese people best by listening to music and sharing these exciting experiences with them!

After Carpainter, batsu, an artist from Osaka, began his set with Carpainter’s “EXCITE” and immediately set the crowd into a unanimous cheer:

Batsu is a producer that is really good at mixing and engaging the audience.  I have seen him perform various times in both Tokyo and Kansai, and his mixes are always upbeat and easy to dance to while paying homage to various artists.  Just recently he posted his own WIP of “Face my Fears” from Kingdom Hearts, and also did a mix for Trekkie Trax Radio featuring a ton of artists from this event.  He was overall an essential artist in making this event a huge success!

After Batsu’s energized set, everyone’s favorite crew, Trekkie Trax, made their appearance onstage (consisting of andrew, Carpainter, Seimei, and futatsuki):

In this set, Trekkie Trax played a lot of music from their own artists including Carpainter Qrion, Cola Splash, and also premiered part of their label’s upcoming release of “Trip” by Native Rapper.  My personal favorite part of their set was when andrew mixed a KiNK song into “Quick Turn” by Qrion.  By this time, everyone was jumping up and down and cheering, because this was the first time that Trekkie Trax has ever played at Kyoto Metro, and it was an extremely memorable set!

The last artist that performed was metome, an original music producer from Osaka.  This was my very first time listening to them so it is difficult for me to write a proper review, but similar to isagen, they seem to produce a lot of abstract music with unique sampling that bends your mind.  It was neat because the event ended with a similar vibe to how it started.  This is my favorite song from their Soundcloud:

Overall, I really enjoyed this event because it was very organized, all of the artists played with their maximum effort, and it was easy to talk to people and make friends.  I love to go to events outside of Tokyo as much as I can so I can be exposed to different types of music and learn more about the world around me.  I will definitely come back to Metro and travel to other underground clubs in Japan in the near future.  Please stay tuned for more music news and adventures!