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My favorite SXSW showcase, The British Music Embassy (BME), celebrates its 16th year of spotlighting a variety of musical genre and geographical corners of the U.K., from punk and grime, to indie dance, garage thrash, and glam rock. From Northern Ireland and Scotland, to Wales and the Northern Powerhouse of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle, to East of England's Norwich, Suffolk, and Norfolk, through London and down to the rocky beaches of Brighton.

Latitude 30 has been home to BME from the beginning, with shows packing out Latitude 30 and lines forming down the block of San Jancinto. This year DIY Presents returns to kick off the nighttime shows on Monday, March 12. All the hosts and music entities are back as well, including BBC Music Introducing and BBC Radio 1 with Huw Stephens, BBC Radio 2 with Jo Whiley, BBC 6Music with Steve Lamacq, as well as the UK music trade bodies that make BME possible, year after year; organizations that cover the costs to bring these acts to Austin where the talent of the UK can gain exposure to SXSW music fans and the American music market, one of the largest in the world.

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Each year roughly 2,000 bands travel from around the world for one of the most diverse music festivals in genre and country of origin. Having covered SXSW since 2002, this is a magical, abundant holiday for us music geeks. While the craziness of Sx can be a bit overwhelming with so many amazing sounds to choose from at every turn on 6th Street and beyond, those of us covering SXSW are here to help filter through chaos.

Here is the start of my series of SXSW music picks, the bands I'm looking forward to checking out live.

Ume

Lead singer and co-founding member of Austin-based Ume, Laura Langer, found thrash punk music in her teens and has never let go, even through the process of adulthood, marriage, and starting a family. It doesn’t hurt that fellow founding member and bassist Eric Larson is also her husband, with the two traversing the journey of writing, releasing music, record deals, and touring over the years. “Eric saw me play my first show ever when I was 15. He said if he ever saw that guitarist again he’d talk to her. A few months later, he saw my band play at a skatepark and we’ve been making music together ever since,” said Langer in a Facebook post promoting the #1RiffADay and #SheShreds Challenge.

Music-blockchain
The blockchain and cryptocurrency world has been on quite the rollercoaster ride in the last twelve months. Bitcoin (BTC) alone climbed in value from $1,110 in early February of 2017 to over $18,000 mid-December, and today sits at around $7,000 and change as of this publishing date. Meanwhile, you can’t swing a cat (figuratively, of course) and not hit a blockchain or crypto-related meetup or conference being held in cities across the globe.

The string of continuity throughout the blockchain community as a whole is the potential for the architecture to transform nearly every market sector. Those who are the real deal, so to speak, hold a long-game approach to the development of services and products that solve problems and improve business ecosystems, as opposed to short-term money grabs, fake ICOs, and rip-off schemes.

Despite news of countries like India and banks like Lloyds banning certain crypto coins like BTC, the future for blockchain looks very bright.

At SXSW this year, the programming focused on blockchain has expanded as those who are influencing the direction this technology is headed has grown, with new companies sprouting up that are changing operations in numerous verticals for the better.

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CES, the first major technology conference of the new year that gives us all a glipse of what to expect from nearly every consumer and B2B market there is over the following 12 months. So get your comfortable shoes on, a grab a coffee, and get ready for a myriad of acronyms to fly through your ears and head over the course of the next week.

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Through each decade of triumphs and tragedies, our musical heroines and heroes have inspired us by tapping into our collective angst and anger, and then translating those emotions into song, releasing timeless tracks that are appreciated and adored from one generation to the next.

2017 is definitely one for the world’s-gone-mad record books, making Stephen Emmer’s Home Ground, released in June of this year, highly relevant as it resonates with political and socially-powered lyrics of this time in history while inspired by defiant, classic soul tracks from Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Gil Scott-Heron, and Billie Holiday that wielded “an iron fist with a velvet glove.”

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It's already Day 2 of the Life is Beautiful Music & Arts Festival and the weather has been cooperating nicely, with an unusual, and almost Los Angeles-like "sunny and 72 degrees" flow going for this time of year. Today the live streaming feature on of the festival continues on Yahoo.com/lifeisbeautiful, brought to fans by Toyota.

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Toyota's Music Den has been on tour during the festival season and arrives this weekend for Life is Beautiful Music & Art Festival in downtown Las Vegas (September 22-24). The Music Den serves almost as a mini-festival within a festival, curating more intimate musical experiences for the fans by bringing the performers up close and personal within a smaller setting. At this year’s LIB the Den line up includes Viceroy, David Shaw and Zack Feinberg of The Revivalists, RAC, Kamaiyah, Day Wave, Local Natives, Broods, Ella Vos, Classixx, Mondo Cozmo, Middle Kids, Tycho, FRENSHIP, Hippo Campus, with Sofi Tukker having to cancel (Quinn XCII is replacing them during their 6:00-6:50pm slot on the Ambassador stage).

This week I fly out to Toronto (unfortunately, on United Airlines...wish me luck) for my third Canadian Music Week, the annual music business conference and festival.

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In addition to having the pleasure of being on the panel, "Brands in the Music Space: A Debate on the Pros and Cons" (sorry, couldn't resist the plug), attending sessions, reuniting with our unofficial music festival family (you know who you are), and hearing Live Nation's Michael Rapino speak, catching local Canadian bands and international acts is a top priority.

SXSW is almost upon those of us who are attending, so we’re trying to keep up with emails and RSVP's while prepping our bodies for the marathon and packing major doses of vitamin B12.

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For those who can't make the trek to Austin, there will be a number of opportunities to experience the minute-by-minute happenings, performances, and exclusive video that even the people there on the ground won’t have access to. Plus, audio streams broadcasting live will give everyone in Austin and beyond, stories, news, and music they can take in on the go.

Now in its 16th year, FADER FORT returns with four full days of musical performances from March 15 - 18. Since 2001, FADER FORT grew in popularity, expanding its footprint with massive crowds showing up to check out the artists and the FORT experience, following Twitter rumors of evening shows with suprise appearances, all of which contributed to the magic of SXSW.

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This year they return to their roots in a "nod to The FADER’s inaugural showcase in 2001," moving the festivities to a more intimate venue at 1209 East 6th Street (Volcom Garden) while still presenting a multi-use, indoor and outdoor environment to mashup music, the arts, drinks, lounging and playing.

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