In November 2022, we celebrated a year of milestones, successes and band breakthroughs with our GMS Annual Awards. Now in their eighth consecutive year, our Annual Awards have a proven track record for sometimes calling things early – and also ensuring recognition for artists spreads far beyond tribal voting or the acts that are fortunate to have the resources or marketing muscle to be noticed.
Powered by GMS website followers and Friday rockshow listeners, the 2022 Band of the Year was the result of more than 26,000 votes during the full year – and the 148 bands that put their hands up to give us feature interviews during the course of the year all made the initial, rather long, shortlist. The countdown process ensured all 148 artists got profile from the awards and the Final 40 bands of the year all featured as the ‘class of 22’ over two radio shows in early November. So whilst there will be award winners, we aim to spread recognition as a far and wide as possible during the process we run.
The Friday show is about giving time to acts that want to get involved – everyone gets a kick of the ball and a chance to shine. Thanks to all the artists that have given our listeners time over 2022. Despite a hugely challenging context in 2022 – being a year of Covid, of war in Europe and reacting to an economic recession – together we have kept the lights on for new music on Friday nights – and shared the stories that have inspired, made us laugh and also tackled the big issues of the day head on.
As 2022 Band of the Year, DeadBlondeStars follow a fine list of our former GMS Bands of the Year, including: Quireboys (2015), Massive Wagons (2016), Those Damn Crows (2017), The Virginmarys (2018), Scarlet Rebels (2019), As Sirens Fall (2020) and Amongst Liars (2021). Quite a list and a list the DeadBlondeStars deserve to be part of.
DeadBlondeStars are a band that has steadily grown with us during the length of lockdown broadcasting since March 2020. After some sustained runs for album tracks, listeners took interest in a band that, we collectively, seemed to have somehow missed.
We premiered a number of new DeadBlondeStars songs that we supported over time, the band was also proactive in doing interviews and also heaping praise on other bands in their peer group. They regularly engage with listeners during the Friday shows – and from this chemistry, the requests flooded in.
We have also discovered how good this act is as a live band. The sessions for our lockdown festivals gave us a glimpse of this – and their set at Wildfire Festival was for many a real head-turning moment.
Through 2022 DeadBlondeStars regularly featured in the top 4 with our Band of the Month votes and this consistency was the bedrock to their success by the end of in 2022. The band has the full package – strong recorded songs, they are tight live and are nice people to connect with. They are intent on making the music they want to make and they are enjoying the twists and turns of their creative journey – which is happening on their terms.
Looking ahead, 2023 will see a new album, more live dates and festival appearances and Band of the Year could be the start of something. Looking back, some of our previous Bands of the Year were called early, ahead of the pack, and we think this could be the start of something for the people’s choice for 2022 – DeadBlondeStars.
The Bad Day
The Bad Day
The Autumn Killers
The Autumn Killers
Thieves of Liberty
Some new albums are popular because they are comfortable listening, sometimes familiar. Amongst Liars bold debut album did something else – it comprised of music that spoke for the times, protested over issues that need to be tackled and had a style, purpose and energy that was the band’s own.
A number of singles from the album – most notably ‘Black Days’ – we premiered during the lockdown era, but ‘Without Grace’ was the opus track that topped our playlists for consecutive months when Russia invaded Ukraine – an anti-war song from the band that spoke for the times we were living through.
All the albums on the 2022 shortlist were ‘Albums of the Month’ for 2022 – they all have strong critical merits and do check them all out on the album review page of this site.
Amongst Liars was the album we called for the big one. At a time when we all need to focus on what the future for rock looks like – rather than music that is nostalgic for a past era – Amongst Liars have delivered a benchmark album that speaks for today’s world and today’s issues. The definition of modern rock, this is music that can take the genre to new, younger audiences and hold a mirror up to the issues we face in the world today.
Dec (2021): Scarlet Rebels – See Through Blue
Jan: Black Lakes – For All We’ve Left Behind
Feb: Cloverhill – Just North Of Hell
Mar: Matt Pearce & The Mutiny – The Soul Food Store
Apr: Marillion – An Hour Before It’s Dark
May: Tarraska – Tarraska
Jun: Amongst Liars – Amongst Liars
Jul: Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts – Mission
Aug: Marshall Potts – The Storm
Sep: Marco Mendoza – New Direction
Oct: Rebecca Downes – The Space Between Us
Nov: Amongst Liars – Band of the Year Special Edition
Dec: Wolf Moon – How Do You See Yourself
Can songs really be too long for radio? We don’t think so. In fact 2022 has been a year when we’ve somehow needed more widescreen or panoramic songs – it has, after all, been a year of seismic world events and issues and it is in dark times when we sometimes need more from tunes that toe-tapping beats. Maybe that’s what separates good songs from truly great songs.
The shortlist for Single of the Year comprises of songs that had proven runs with us during 2022, powered by listener requests week-in, week-out. Each song in truth could be a worthy winner.
Some of the head-turning songs with us in 2022 were longer songs, so maybe it was the ‘year of prog’ after all. ‘Without Grace’ from Amongst Liars stood tall during the summer months and ‘Care’ By Marillion was another defining song of 2022 – a tribute to the NHS heroes after the pandemic and a song that closed many Friday shows.
But 2022’s winner was the 11-minute ‘Standing Field’ by Machines Dream. First played during our first ‘rockshow for Freedom’ it gained natural momentum among listeners and became the signature song for our various Rockshows for Freedom as the Ukraine conflict unfolded on our TV screens.
The track also featured on our Modern Rock Vol 3, which was dedicated to the people of Ukraine.
We don’t play shampoo ads on GMS Radio nor do we do traffic and travel – and there’s certainly no room for pay-to-play. So we perhaps have a bit more room for longer songs – and listeners would probably say the Friday rockshow is better for it.
Machines Dream – The Standing Field
Marillion – Care
Blue Nation – Echoes
Violet Blend – Rock DJ
Melissa Etheridge – I Know You
Miss Kitty – Bury The Hatchet
Marshall Potts – Heaven or Home
Interlopers – Rainbow’s End
Scarlet Rebels – These Days
Tarraska – Requiem
A force of nature – Sari Schorr was a regular feature of the Friday rock show throughout 2022 – and she was central to our themed series of the year – such as; our rockshows for Ukraine, our 9/11 remembered special, our Women of Rock series and the Modern Rock series.
Beyond being a regular interview guest and having hundreds of music requests, Sari’s 2022 was really defined by her presence and passion as a live performing artist. Her touring was relentless and her festival appearances were always head-turning.
This category was decided by gig-goers across the UK, sharing with me comments on their standout show or performance of 2022.
Some acts draw crowds because they have a catalogue of classic hit singles people know, others that committed fan groups that want to support the band on the road. For Sari, it’s about the professionalism and quality of each performance. People who see her live will be impressed and become fans because of the show. Even people that are not fans of blues-rock will no doubt leave a show with respect for Sari’s voice, stage presence and the intuitive talents of her band. But above all, Sari has a hunger to connect with people, to connect with different cultures and that wisdom from the road is what frames the magic of the next show.
Every year we look beyond bands and take a moment to celebrate one of the many behind-the-scenes heroes that helps keep the grassroots and rising music scene going. And it is usually these people that invest in bands and prove them before the big brands come in and back – what are by then – the safe bets.
Dave Ritchie is a guy I have been fortunate to know for seven years. As the man behind Wildfire Festival, he has done so much to give stage space to young bands early, he is loyal to those he likes and respects and – put simply – he keeps going, through good times and challenging moments.
He is a humble person but his passion for the scene is staunch and unwavering. He believes in the importance of good people making the scene work and he always brings the smiles from the Cheeky Chaffinch on Friday nights. It’s hard to imagine the grassroots rock scene without him.
Having marked 10 years of Wildfire Festival in 2022, this is the year for us all to say a big ‘thank you’ to Dave – both for what he’s done and what is yet to happen.