Despite it being a challenging year for the live and grassroots music scene, on Friday night Great Music Stories aired its 7th annual awards on Great Music Stories Radio to celebrate bold new successes and creative milestones during the year, which culminated with Sussex band Amongst Liars being named 2021 Band of the Year.

Powered by GMS website followers and Friday RockShow listeners, the annual awards have become a bit of a tradition in the grassroots scene over the last seven years – and developed a bit of a track record for calling things early.

Band of the Year

Formed shortly before Covid struck, Amongst Liars evolved in a different way. They recorded a series of standout singles that had compelling 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. Interview regulars as well – developing a narrative on the now-famous cat café – the band drew Band of the Month votes from listeners through the year and their awards triumph is a case study in consistency from a band and maintaining continual direct connection with music fans through a radio 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 (2021).

More than a flash vote, the Band of the Year result is the sum of 12 monthly flash votes over the course of the year, Friday RockShow listeners given a chance each month to vote for the artists that had given sessions or interviews during the course of the month. After 12 months, 20,447 votes were cast across a broad spread of 183 acts.

GuyB comments: “After seven years we have a very defined way of running our awards. We don’t give people short-lists to choose from. Instead, we like to say thank you to the artists that choose to be part of the show on Fridays. Every act that gives time to do sessions or interviews for the listeners gets put in the hat at the end of the month vote, and so the year’s picture evolves. Our listeners pick well, and our system gives everyone a kick of the ball – bands of all shapes and sizes get a level playing field. The bands in the top echelon of the vote were artists that had been on the show a number of times during the year and really engaged with the fans.”

Single of the Year was won by Scarlet Rebels, who also came top three in the Band of the Year vote. The track ‘These Days’ was given to GMS Radio by Earache Records to play in June and has been a firm listener favourite ever since. The shortlist for this category was based on requests during the year and the songs that had had big runs. Scarlet Rebels also came third in the Band of the Year Vote, 2019’s winner achieving a first by coming in the top three for three consecutive years.

Album of the Year went to the USA for the second time in three years. This year 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.

‘Live Act of the Year’ 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 with a tour that reflected the times we were all living in. GuyB adds: “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.” For this category, feedback was shared by 75 gig-going listeners from around the country, those on socials and those offline.

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 and Planet Rock presenter, Toby has set an example for adapting to change, innovator and hard work. From the interviews he has done with Great Music Stories since lockdown, he has also championed the primacy of songcraft over marketing.

A web page will go up on next week with more details on the winners and short listees.

And in terms of awards, next week it’s Great Music Stories turn, GuyB’s shortlisted for the second consecutive year as Best Music Presenter at the Audio Production Awards. GuyB comments: “A bloke from a caravan hasn’t got a chance against the broadcasting giants, but that’s not even the point. Representing the new rock scene, it is great for the community again to be recognised, which is also what our awards were about last night. Dead Blonde Stars, Unknown Refuge, White Raven Down, Verity White, Late Night Legacy, The Autumn Killers, and the Starling Radicals were just a few of many acts that did really well and turned heads. Awards that recognise everyone are good news for the scene and they help us all rekindle that belief we need that will energise us all to rebuild the scene together going into 2022.”

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