Bands to Watch 2010

Chris DeVille, Columbus Alive

Picking Bands to Watch is a strange process, particularly in a music landscape as rich as the one we inhabit.

In the bars, basements and concert halls of Columbus, there's no shortage of faces new and old mixing and matching sounds and styles, spanning the spectrum from faithful homage to absolute innovation. Every burgeoning clique thinks they're onto something special. Most of them are wrong, but many of them are right.

Communities wax and wane - just as one sector fades into the background and its partisans proclaim the death of "the scene," another postures that this city is finally ready for the renaissance that's going to put us on the map, whatever that means. It's an endless cycle, but for music fans not suffering from selective hearing, it yields a wealth of exciting sounds.

There's more music happening in Columbus than ever, and surely more than five acts worth getting excited about. But these are the ones we've decided to vouch for, and boy, do we love 'em.

In a metal community that can often be pretty insular, Struck by Lightning is becoming a new consensus pick. Like Teeth of the Hydra and Deadsea before them, their appeal extends beyond their genre. It also reaches beyond state lines - they toured with Pelican last year and earned rave reviews in major publications like Decibel and Revolver for their debut Serpents.

Then there's Nick Tolford and Company, who struck gold with the unlikely scenario of punk rockers playing '60s-style soul. Tolford's songwriting is impeccable, his voice undeniable. And his band is doing a bang-up job of bringing his tunes to life in vibrant Technicolor.

Despite the group's Appalachian roots, Saintseneca's take on folk music is anything but traditional. Employing an ever-growing arsenal of instruments - violin, mandolin and a plastic trash can are prominent - the band was built for transcendent moments in living rooms. But their relentless strums and choral grandeur translate to just about any setting.

A true anomaly in Columbus, Shin Tower Music took ComFest listeners by surprise then became one of the city's most in-demand experimental acts. The electronic music collective is dedicated to crossing boundaries and breaking formulas, and thus far their adventures in modern music have kept us at rapt attention.

Andrew Graham & Swarming Branch is the true wild card here. We liked Graham's old band RTFO Bandwagon so much that when we heard he had a new project coming out on the prestigious Mexican Summer label, we allowed him to debut Andrew Graham's Good Word at our event. To breathe his latest opus to life, he's recruited a team of prolific pop and experimental talents including Dane Terry, Chris Burney and Ryan Jewell.

Graham will kick off the night at 9 p.m. sharp Saturday at Skully's. We're starting promptly so all five bands will be done by 1 a.m., when buzz-worthy DJ duo roeVy will close out the show with the sort of spooky robot dance party they do so well.

As always, this year's Bands to Watch celebration comes to you free of charge. Stop in to enjoy a cross-section of this city's latest and greatest.