Bands to Watch 2012

Chris DeVille, Columbus Alive

Listen up, Columbus. Bands to Watch is back.

For the ninth straight year, Alive is stamping its endorsement on five Columbus musical acts. We adore their music, we respect their dedication and we expect each of them to make a lot of noise this year, starting at our free concert Saturday at Skully's.

So what makes a Band to Watch? It's not an exact science, but it starts with the music. There's no point in trumpeting somebody whose sounds make you shrug, and these five perk up our eyebrows and ramp up our collective pulse. We also consider how well they've positioned themselves to live out their dreams, be it through record deals, tours, savvy promotion or a fervent fan base. Then there's the freshness factor; "new" is relative, but the idea is to find that sweet spot between established presence and complete unknown.

As usual, we aimed to select a diverse slate of artists. Thus, the list spans from the ragged glory of Sundown's classic rock to The DewDroppers' unhinged swinging sounds to the surreal tropical nostalgia of Monster Rally. Even the two rappers we picked operate in completely different modes: power (Freaky Franz) and finesse (Meechie Nelson).

In a way, this year's lineup shows Columbus is in step with what's happening worldwide. With technology obliterating the limits of solo projects, rappers and electronic producers are proliferating, blessing web browsers with an outpouring of audio and visual creations. In response, bands are reaching into classic genres to remind us that killer songwriting and slaying on your instrument will always be inspiring.

On the other hand, the lineup is distinctly Columbus - the sort of creative jumble you expect from a town with cheap rent and cheaper booze, where a major public university coexists with a prominent art school and the work ethic is almost as hearty as the comfort food. Five bands could never encompass everything our city has to offer, but these ones make fine avatars nonetheless.

See you this Saturday at Skully's, where doors open at 8 p.m. and music kicks off at 9 sharp. Admission is free!

Skully's Music Diner

8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28

1151 N. High St., Short North