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I’m apprehensive to write this exclusive list, since I appreciate how sensitive artists can be, and want to continue encouraging our local musicians. However, every week people are asking me who are the best, local bands and who they should book for their private parties, weddings, etc.

Here is a list of local musicians I’ve enjoyed this year with solo artists listed last:

American Roommates are a five-piece, energetic, indie, rock band who continue to grow with every show. It might be because they are literally roommates (with the exception of their newest member) who practice, write, and play together most everyday. Will (lead singer) is likened to Modest Mouse’s lead singer. The band as a whole have been compared to Arcade Fire and Cold War Kids, with driving beats and energetic shows that possess an interesting dynamic. Their spiritual influence (several of the members play at churches) resonates with your spirit and has caught on with local hipsters. They are mixing their latest album now, and plan on moving to Nashville, so catch them here while you can.

The Neal Lucas Band is a rock, blues, jam trio. These guys are brilliant performers. The trio has several other projects they are pursuing, and often have various musicians sit in with them like Kevin Vannoy and Big Saxy (two of the best saxophonists in town), because of their musical creativity, improvisation and spontaneity. Neal Lucas is one of, if not the best, guitar player in town. He helps teach at CSU and released a solo album this year as well. Evan Collins (bassist and son of a preacher) won an online competition, out of hundreds of contestants all over the world, to play with the most viewed drummer on YouTube, and to record/be a part of his band, Ventura Lights. Steven Thompson (drummer) also has a new band, Uncommon (playing Saturday at The Loft), multiple creative projects, and his own multi media company, High Definition Media, Inc.
Cubed Roots is a R&B Soul band, fronted by prodigy Lloyd Buchanan, who has also been a worship leader for 11 years. These three players have a rhythm and blues sound so soulful, you know they come from right here, in the south’s heartland. Lloyd commands the room, owns the piano (and several other instruments), has traveled internationally with The Heavy’s and other bands, and was even on The Letterman Show! Look out for big things from Lloyd, and possibly his band too.
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Fellas and the Vine are a four piece Indie, Grass, Americana band. They started off as Billy and the Kid by lead singers Billy and Ivy, who also met playing at church. They then added the talented Jesse Shelby, on mandolin, banjo, dobro, percussion, and guitar, plus drummer Joseph Melancon to make up the band. They’ve been likened to several popular artist such as Lumineers, Head and the Heart and Fleet Foxes. They always entertain and keep the crowd, while possessing a beautiful harmony rich in soul.
Stereomonster “is just that- a monster creeping and crawling across the FM airwaves mixing rock, hip-hop, and spoken word in a most unique, unprecedented fashion. Lead by a two-headed lyrical machine with Zac Young’s cleverly poetic melodies and BEZ’s passion filled raps the band takes you on a journey of emotions and genres; from the ghettos, the woods, and highways of the southeastern united states just to swing you up with spaced out jams leaving you somewhere on the outskirts of Neptune. Holding the madness together Casey Gryzstar with his funky bass and “Snare Jordan” Manley a drumming prodigy. Having released three albums Ultrasound (2009) The Love Palace (2011) And The Kids Go Crazy (2012) Stereomonster is a must see live show, eye opening and thought provoking experience.” Steremonster’s Facebook page proclaims the truth. They’ve played SXSW, several shows around the Southeast, and a lot of fun, private parties! There is never a dull moment while attending their crazy show if you can get in the door.
Common Rival started as four friends, heavily influenced by classic rock and modern soul music. They’ve recently added Anna Leigh McKelvey on Keys/Violin/Vocals and switched the line up a bit. This year, Common Rival has really entertained us with their great melodies, passion for songwriting, and unique americana, indie sound! Their shows are packed with local hipsters and is always a good time. They’ve been working on an album for a little while and we are looking forward to hearing it.
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Tim O’Brien Project is a funky, blues, rock band who have respectfully grown their following this year. Blues, R&B, Funk seems to always provide a good time whether on a big stage or dive bar.
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Corvus & Canis is a female/male duo who play a range of genres from rock to a cafe acoustic sound. Both members have a passion and commitment to music that has gained them a solid following, and gigs around the southeast. Corvus & Canis perform many original songs and a wide variety of covers.
Dagger One is a young, indie rock band who caught my attention from a block away, while they played the Broadway Festival.  I had to book them. These guys may be young, but they’ve been playing for a while and have rich, musical backgrounds. Look for Dagger One’s recording from The Loft Studio and more shows starring these guys in 2015.
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The Buddy Harden Band makes me feel like I’m visiting the best of the 1970’s when I hear them. They play Classic Rock, Southern Rock, originals, instrumentals and are an extremely fun, five piece band! They always show up with their crew, and have a great time. This group loves what they do and you can feel it.
Lazy Swamis is a trio who describe themselves as, “Home Grown, hand rolled, Rock, Rhythm, and Soul. Brannon Tharpe brings the solid southern rhythm, Michael Blizzard lays down the smooth New York City bass lines and Todd Sibert throws in some California rock guitar with a funky twist. How does that all go together? Like nothing you’ve ever heard. Top it off with some humorous lyrics and the combined ability to improvise structure and style as well as melody and the party starts rolling.” Listen to Lazy Swamis for yourself at http://www.reverbnation.com/lazyswamis.
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Wildman Steve is a local legend, who has entertained us for years, playing the washboard with legends like Col. Bruce Hampton and more. He has his own radio show www.WildmanSteve.com and has won many awards for his skills. He has played with the incredible, bluegrass band Bibb City Ramblers for years, but while they’ve been on break, he had a new, temporary project this year too, Silly String Band.  We are happy to have him a part of our music community.
 Ricky Gunn is a country, pop artist affiliated with New Canvas Entertainment. He has a large following and is making big moves. Gunn has opened shows for country stars like Travis Tritt, Tyler Farr and Gary Allan, while earning a solid reputation as one of the hardest-working showmen in Georgia. “Recorded at the world-famous Blackbird Studio in Nashville, Tennessee, King of this Town is modern country music with old roots, anchored by a love for the classics and a blue-collar mentality.” Judge if he is “King of this Town” for yourself:
 
King Fractal is a drummer who transformed himself into a one-man-band, making hip-hop beats, ambient soundscapes and remixes. He has collaborated with Stereomonster‘s frontman, Bez, plus several other artists and videographers. He uses his background in drums to drive his live shows. Listen and follow him on Soundcloud at https://soundcloud.com/kingfractal.
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Honorable mention goes to DJ Cee-Lo. He is an incredible DJ from Panama City, Panama, he was a DJ in Germany for 5 years at several clubs, part of the Krack Hand Dj’s from Hawaii and plays several clubs in Hawaii as well. DJ Cee-Lo truly has an international influence.  He has also opened for Lil’ John, Pitbull, Busta Rhymes, Ying Yang Twins, Flo Rida, Dem Franchise Boy. DJ Cee-Lo mixes the Divine Martino show on Foxie 105 Tuesday and Thursday. As well as mixing the best, dance beats at Rafters every weekend, alongside his entertaining videos played on several flat screens around the club. Even if you aren’t into dancing much it’s hard to simply sit at the bar when you hear his amazing talent. We are thankful the army brought him here.
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I’m also happy Garrett Lee, local Christian, Americana singer-songwriter has just released an album, “Life is a Melody”, and look forward to hearing his incredible voice at more live shows in 2015.

 Georgia has a rich history in music and Columbus has brought some significant artists to the table, like the “Mother of Blues” Ma Rainey. I look forward to hearing more significant music from our region, hoping we foster live music (venues) and not quench it. I’m particularly concerned for 18-21 year olds who currently go to other cities for big concerts, and only have coffee shops to watch live music here. What happened to all the underage music venues?
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Lastly, did you notice how many of these musicians have a church background? Bring on the soul. Let us know who we left out and which artists you are enjoying.
Written by Jacy Jenkins, who has booked local talent the past two years for CutBait Music Festival, The Loft, The Foxhole and various events.