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Bluesfest organiser comments as artists pull out of Australian festival over Sticky Fingers booking

By | Published on Thursday 23 February 2023

Sticky Fingers

The organiser of Australian festival Bluesfest has defended his decision to book Sticky Fingers to play the event, after Sampa The Great and King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard pulled out in protest at the band’s appearance on the line-up.

Sticky Fingers frontman Dylan Frost has been at the centre of a number of controversies in recent years, with accusations of racism, misogyny, transphobia and violence made against him a number of times between 2016 and 2018. Frost has denied some of the allegations, and put others down to alcohol abuse and mental health issues.

In a statement to ticketholders yesterday, the festival’s organiser Peter Noble wrote: “I hoped it didn’t need to be said, but unfortunately, it does. We at Bluesfest stand for something: inclusivity. 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”, he went on. “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”, he concluded. “Make us proud, Dylan; you are doing great!”

In 2016, Sticky Fingers announced that they were going on hiatus due to “internal issues”. The following day, it was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that Frost had been accused of physically threatening fellow musician Thelma Plum. There were also allegations of racism made against him earlier the same year.

In his own statement at the time, Frost said that he had been struggling with alcohol and mental health issues, apologising to those he had hurt but denying racism. He also said that he would be attending rehab and therapy.

The band returned in 2018, although shortly afterwards Frost was ejected from a Sydney pub after he was accused of harassing a transgender woman.

A spokesperson for the band at the time did not deny that Frost had been thrown out of the pub, but insisted that he had not instigated the incident or threatened violence, saying that it was actually him who was being harassed.

The new controversy over Sticky Fingers being booked to play Bluesfest started to build earlier this week when King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard announced their decision to pull out because of that booking.

They said: “As a band and as human beings, we stand against misogyny, racism, transphobia and violence. [We are] surprised and saddened to see Bluesfest commit to presenting content that is in complete opposition to these values”.

“Given this decision by the festival, we have decided to cancel our appearance at Bluesfest”, they went on. “We are deeply disappointed to be in this position but sometimes you need to be willing to make sacrifices to stand up for your values. This is, unfortunately, one of those moments”.

Then yesterday a spokesperson for Sampa The Great told Double J that she had actually requested that her name be removed from the Bluesfest line-up earlier this month, saying: “We started contact with Bluesfest to inform them of our standpoint within half an hour of receiving the embargoed press release and seeing the remainder of the line-up”.

“We then delivered final confirmation to Bluesfest at 7:36pm AEDT on Tuesday 14 Feb that Sampa was coming off the line-up, in the hopes they would remove her from all materials before they announced the following day”, they added.

Sticky Fingers have not yet commented on this particular controversy. The band completed a sold out UK and Ireland tour earlier this week, which included a show at Alexandra Palace in London.