Culture / Music

Sticky Fingers exit Bluesfest 2023 lineup

bluesfest king gizzard

On February 2020, Melbourne psych-rock band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard announced they would no longer perform at Bluesfest 2023 in protest against a decision made by festival organisers to add Sticky Fingers to the lineup.

The band announced its withdrawal from the Byron Bay festival through Instagram with a post that read, "As a band and as human beings, we stand against misogyny, racism, transphobia and violence. Surprised to see Bluesfest commit to presenting content that is in complete opposition to these values".


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The original post from King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard drew support from fellow musicians Kira Piru, Jaguar Jonze and Georgia Maq from Camp Cope (rip), including Sampa the Great who would also follow the Melbourne-based band's move, announcing her exit from Bluesfest in protest also.

After weeks of controversy around the addition of Sticky Fingers to the Bluesfest lineup, festival director Peter Noble announced the band would no longer play the 2023 iteration of the festival. He had this to say: “Bluesfest cannot, sadly, continue to support Sticky Fingers by having them play our 2023 edition, and we apologise to those artists, sponsors and any others we involved in this matter through our mistaken belief that forgiveness and redemption are the rock on which our society is built."

“The narrative that they continue to deserve to be cancelled, as well as anyone who publicly supports them, is difficult to accept, wherein a portion of society and media passes eternal judgment toward those, in this case, a diagnosed mentally ill person whom we feel doesn’t deserve the continued public scrutiny he’s being given," the press release continued.

Scheduled for the Easter long weekend in April, Sticky Fingers were among a handful of acts such as Sampa the Great and a tribute performance to the late Archie Roach, that were added to the Bluesfest lineup on February 14. In a statement that supported the announcement, Noble called Sticky Fingers “the bad boys of Australian music” and said Bluesfest was “happy to welcome them back” to perform at the 2023 event.

Immediately, the move and the language around it was called into question by figures in the Australian music scene, namely Camp Cope drummer Sarah Thompson and Jaguar Jonze, and a chorus of other voices given the band's track record with allegations of violent, racist and abusive behaviour.

In response to the backlash, Noble defended the decision to support the band in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald on February 15. Noble said, "Everybody has a right to be forgiven and to show who they can be...and this man is attempting to do that, so that’s why he’s on Bluesfest."

The festival director then compared Frost to Van Gogh, saying, "Lots of great artists over the years have had issues. Van Gogh had issues, but was he a great artist? That’s what we remember him for. Just let this man be the artist that he is. He’s trying his hardest.”

In 2016, Sticky Fingers frontman Dylan Frost was accused of physically threatening Gamilaraay musician Thelma Plum. That same year, Frost denied accusations that he had hurled racist taunts at band Dispossessed during one of their performances. During the heat of these allegations, Sticky Fingers made the choice to go on an indefinite hiatus and Frost opened up about “dealing with alcohol addiction and mental health issues” as well as his diagnosis with bipolar schizophrenia.

The hiatus was broken in 2018 when Sticky Fingers played Bad Friday festival at Marrickville. Upon their return, Frost made an audio statement that was published on Facebook. In the video he said that as a Māori man, "I am wholeheartedly against racism, and so is the band". Frost also stressed that he "does not condone or in any way excuse violence against women, straight up, I never have and I never will", before going on to acknowledge how his "alcoholic behaviour in the past has intimidated or made people feel unsafe around me, and I am truly sorry for this".

Shortly after this statement, Sticky Fingers gave an interview to Tom Tilley on triple j's Hack where the band claimed its hiatus was due to internal issues rather than the backlash and accusations against them. Tilley asked Frost what he was sorry for and the musician responded with "boys will be boys". When prodded by what he meant by that phrase, Frost said, "shit happens man".

A month after the appearance on triple j, Vice reported that Frost also had allegedly gotten into an altercation at a Newtown pub with transgender model and writer Alexandra V. Tanygina. In a statement to The Australian, a spokesperson for Sticky Fingers rejected Tanygina’s version of events, saying, "Dylan was in the pokies room after spending some time with a friend. As he was leaving he was approached and verbally attacked by a stranger and called a racist".

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Image: @stickyfingersband