Set against a challenging year for venues and the grassroots music scene, the return of our 7th Annual Awards in November 2021 presented an opportunity to celebrate bold new successes and creative milestones during the year.
Powered by GMS website followers and Friday rockshow listeners, the annual awards have become a tradition over the years – and developed a bit of a track record for calling things early. More than a one-off vote, the GMS Band of the Year is the sum of 12 monthly flash votes over the course of the year, Friday rockshow listeners and website followers given a chance each month to vote for the artists that have given sessions or interviews during the course of the month. And this means the artists all have time from us up front. After 12 months, 20,447 votes were cast across a broad spread of 183 acts.
Whilst there have to be winners, the ethos of the show and the way the awards are run is intended to showcase the diversity of the scene. Every band was someone’s favourite and we hope people have discovered new artists to follow this year.
Thanks to industry champs Central Press, Devil’s Gate Media, MNPR Magazine, Eric Duvet Photography, Lynda McKenna Photography, Wildfire Festival, LoveRocks Festival, Reach 360 Promotions, Stampede Press, All About The Rock and Blazing Minds for supporting the awards night.
Formed shortly before Covid struck, Amongst Liars have been one of the dominant forces of the last two years, as the pandemic forced us to retreat to the relative safe haven that is the rock caravan.
Unable to build their reputation as a live act during lockdown, Amongst Liars got busy with song writing and they recorded a series of standout singles that had compelling social and political relevance to the issues of the day. A bold, modern rock sound, all their songs had long play-listings on Great Music Stories and they recorded three sessions. ‘Black Days’ was short-listed as Single Of The Year in 2020 and returned again in 2021. The boys bagged the ‘South East Rocks’ regional award last year, a calling card perhaps on things to come.
Interview regulars throughout the Covid era with us, the band combined an infectious sense of humour on air with the ability to also get serious and intelligently tackle the big industry issues. Through the combination of stand-out modern rock singles, sharing original lockdown sessions and delivering arresting interviews, Amongst Liars become Friday rockshow regulars, pulling listener requests every week. We premiered a number of their singles – all of which had long runs for weeks and months, gathering momentum like rolling snowballs.
As a result, the band drew Band of the Month votes from listeners throughout the year and their awards triumph is a case study in consistency from a band – plus their desire to maintain a continual direct connection with music fans through a Friday show.
As 2021 Band of the Year, Amongst Liars follow previous Band of the Year winners – The Quireboys (2015), Massive Wagons (2016), Those Damn Crows (2017), The Virginmarys (2018), Scarlet Rebels (2019) and As Sirens Fall (2020).
December – Amongst Liars
January – Dead Blonde Stars
February – Rainbreakers
March – When Rivers Meet
April – Bad Touch
May – Twisted Illusion
June – Verity White
July – Inglorious
August – Ravenbreed
September – Jack J Hutchinson
October – Florence Black
The Dust Coda
Jack J Hutchinson
Dead Blonde Stars
When Rivers Meet
Those Damn Crows
White Raven Down
Cry For Mercy
Late Night Legacy
The emphatic and universal listener reaction to this accolade underlined what this song has come to mean to people. Possibly the best radio single from the forthcoming album ‘See Through Blue,’ the song’s magic is that it both protests and also inspires you at the same time.
On first listen to ‘See Through Blue’ earlier in the year, I believed this was ‘the song’ and Earache kindly let me premiere it on my Friday rock show back in June. And that was it, after the first spin, the requests just kept pouring in. From September, it enjoyed a three-month consecutive run as the most played track of the month – powered by requests.
The timing of our first airing of ‘These Days’ was just right, a song that raged against the inequalities of life through Covid and yet, as we slowly re-emerged from lockdown, it conveyed an empowered sense of hope as the summer sun came back into our lives. The song had the same reaction on listeners as Wagons’ ‘Ratio’ had with us back in early 2016; a song people wanted in their lives – and it’s been notable too how many bands and industry people have commented on what a great song ‘These Days’ is. It has the magic of a great radio single – simple, accessible, popular and empowering.
‘These Days’ is not a staple ‘rock banger,’ it’s something far more important – a great song that can appeal to people from varied walks of life – and mean different things to different people. And it’s songs like this that stand Scarlet Rebels out in an over-saturated market.
This year’s album accolade went to the USA for the second time in three years. Badflower triumphed with their album ‘This Is How The World Ends.’ Album of the Year category is critically picked by GuyB, and the shortlist was based on the 12 ‘Album of the Month’ albums that were reviewed on the website over the last year.
This album is unlike any rock album I’ve heard this year. Its starkly in-your-face and original. The music arrangements are clever, the lyrics masterful and the vocal performances totally alive. At a time when some call for the revival of the classic rock era, this album reminds us we don’t need old to come back – no, we rock music to speak for our world today in 2021 and doing this defines and creates the musical expression that should evolve. We need to talk about today’s issues – we need guitar music to protest, to observe and drive change. With ‘This Is How The World Ends’ Badflower have delivered the benchmark album that speaks for ‘the now’ and, in doing so, they could well be defining the future of rock n roll for a new era.
This award went to Spike for his solo acoustic tour which started before Covid restrictions ended in the Summer. The artist that wrote a lockdown album for his mum and was the first to hit the road in May 2021, with a solo acoustic tour that reflected the imperfect times we were all living in.
A live act award is always going to be a bit subjective but, for many, Spike was the person that drew them back to venues and his unplugged shows had an intimacy and spontaneity that captured a moment in time. The unplanned sets, the storytelling, the fun covers – even the social media videos shot upside down – this a tour that reminded us about the magic you only get at an in-person live event. And after a year of lockdown and people feeling nervous about even leaving the house, these friendly, safe and intimate shows were the perfect stepping stone back to live music.
For this category, feedback was shared by gig-going listeners from around the country, those on socials and those offline. And Spike was also a big feature of what we did in the last year – in total of five interview hour specials were put together on the solo albums and tour, and some listeners regarded this fun series as a creative highpoint of our output during the year.
The Industry Hero of the Year award went to Toby Jepson for his leadership by example during lockdown.
From kitchen busker and podcaster to mentor, film-maker and Planet Rock presenter, Toby has set an example for adapting to change, innovation and hard work. From the interviews he has done with Great Music Stories since lockdown, he has also championed the primacy of young bands focusing on songcraft over marketing.
Toby’s work and music focus during lockdown is, we think, a blueprint – a best practice for young bands to follow. In an age of too many social media soap boxes, Toby set an example for doing rather than saying, and meeting dark times with positivity and a focus on what could be done. In doing so, he helped keep people entertained during the long days of lockdown and he released some of his finest music.