What makes a Band to Watch? It's a common question when we announce our annual picks, and it doesn't get any easier to answer as the years go by.

What makes a Band to Watch?

It's a common question when we announce our annual picks, and it doesn't get any easier to answer as the years go by. The city is brimming with exciting music of many stripes, so boiling everything down to a handful of spotlight artists is damn near impossible.

No rule is hard and fast, but there are certain factors that always come into play when we're picking the Bands to Watch.

One criterion we consider is ambition. Do these acts have big aspirations, and are they backing up their talk by releasing music and going on tour?

Then there's freshness. Though we've been known to honor established bands on the verge of a big break, we gravitate toward groups that formed within the past couple of years.

In keeping with the push for new blood, this year we also stayed away from acts featuring members of previous Bands to Watch, though you could put together an exciting showcase entirely from such groups.

Let's not forget the most subjective standard: quality. After the cloud clears from all the huffing and puffing about credentials, we pick bands we love. And we certainly love the ones we lined up for Saturday's showcase at Skully's.

Tireless, talented trio Alleyes Path comprises perhaps the busiest men in local hip-hop, personifying the concept of "on the grind, all the time." Along with the effortlessly smooth P. Blackk and wildly poetic Fabrashay A, they're part of a vibrant new generation of Columbus rappers and producers.

The Wet Darlings' bang-up live show and sharp melodic sense won them a passionate contingent of fans among our staff. The Town Monster was ridiculously prolific in 2010, improving their unique synth-rock sound with each monthly EP and capping it off with a badass animated Christmas special. (No, really!) And we can't help but keep coming back to explore Way Yes' electro-tropical playground.

All of these promising musicians will take the stage Saturday at Skully's, followed by a raging dance party by Alleyes Path's DJ Self Help. It's completely free, and it starts at 9 p.m. sharp. Please join us in celebrating the city's latest wave of captivating sounds.