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Bluesfest loses acts due to controversial booking

Sampa the Great and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have withdrawn from Byron Bay Bluesfest, following the controversial booking of Australian band Sticky Fingers.

Sticky Fingers’ booking was criticised in light of past allegations of racism and violence against frontman Dylan Frost, according to NME Australia.

These include 2016 allegations that Frost threatened Gamilaraay singer-songwriter Thelma Plum in a Sydney pub, and allegations from the same year that he made racist comments during a performance by the band Dispossessed (Frost denied these allegations).

In 2016, Frost apologised for his “unacceptable” behaviour and said he would be entering rehab and therapy. In 2018, the singer was accused of verbally harassing and threatening to fight a transgender woman in another Sydney pub; the band later issued a statement denying the woman’s account of events, the publication said.

King Gizzard announced their withdrawal on Monday (20 February), saying “As a band and as human beings, we stand against misogyny, racism, transphobia and violence.

“Surprised and saddened to see Bluesfest commit to presenting content that is in complete opposition to these values,” they said.

A representative for Sampa the Great confirmed her withdrawal to Double J on Tuesday (22 February) afternoon.

“As a band and as human beings, we stand against misogyny, racism, transphobia and violence”

Bluesfest director Peter Noble this afternoon shared a new statement with ticketholders in regard to Sticky Fingers’ inclusion on the line-up.

“I hoped it didn’t need to be said, but unfortunately, it does. We at Bluesfest stand for something: inclusivity,” Noble said.

“We want to support artists who are achieving greatness, which often involves overcoming incredible hurdles. Please take the time to educate yourself with the facts regarding Sticky Fingers.

“They aren’t monsters; they are a seriously great Australian band whose singer has had to overcome barriers that would have sidelined all but the most determined to continue to perform. Yes, he has transgressed in the past, but not for many years.

“I question why there is such an ongoing witch-hunt toward a man with a mental health disorder. A man who is attempting to grow and function in society.

“Shouldn’t we forgive and provide a path to redemption for artists who have taken ownership of their situation and have proven for many years now that they have found a way to function responsibly?

“Is Australia the only place in the world where a minority attempts to ban one of Australia’s great bands over something that happened so many years ago?

“I want to thank the vast majority of the music industry for supporting inclusivity. Make us proud, Dylan; you are doing great!”

Bluesfest will return to Byron Events Farm between 6–10 April 2023 with artists including Mavis Staples, Bonnie Raitt, The Doobie Brothers, Jackson Browne, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Paolo Nutini, Lucinda Williams, Beck, Gang Of Youths, Tash Sultana and more.


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