Sticky Fingers were included as part of the sixth lineup announcement for this year’s edition of Bluesfest, alongside Zambian hip hop artist Sampa the Great and a tribute to the late Uncle Archie Roach organised in association with the Archie Roach Foundation.
Sticky Fingers Were Included in the Sixth Artist Announcement for Bluesfest 2023
Sticky Fingers’ place on the bill sparked backlash on social media, with many questioning the decision to book a band that has a history of alleged incidents of racist, sexist and transphobic conduct.
Noble made a passing acknowledgement of that history in a statement alongside the announcement, describing Sticky Fingers as “the bad boys of Australian music” and saying Bluesfest was “happy to welcome them back.”
Among those to criticise the booking were Camp Cope drummer Sarah Thompson (who tweeted “bluesfest go fuck yourself”) and musician Jaguar Jonze. “Disgusting and sickening to see abusive and violent behaviour glamorised into a bad boy image,” Jonze – real name Deena Lynch – tweeted.
“Victims of their violent, racist, abusive, [misogynistic] behaviour have to carry the pain from their actions and yet we’re expected to just continually forgive even though no accountability was taken and ‘some time’ has passed? Cultural change starts with those in power.”
In the comments below Bluesfest’s Instagram post announcing the new lineup additions, one user asked if the Archie Roach Foundation were aware that they were going to be announced at the same time as “a band who verbally abused Thelma Plum.”
Sticky Fingers frontman Dylan Frost was, in 2016, accused of being physically threatening to Gamilaraay singer-songwriter Plum at a pub in Sydney. Shortly afterwards, the band announced they were going on hiatus, and Frost posted a statement on Facebook in which he apologised to those affected by his “behaviour.” The singer disclosed an alcohol addiction and diagnoses for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and announced he would be entering into rehabilitation and therapy.
Responding to the comment on Instagram, the official Bluesfest account replied: “The incident was in 2016. The singer from the band had an incident for which he apologised. He is a diagnosed Bipolar Schizophrenic. after almost 7 years… [without] a recurrence. Isn’t it time to forgive, and let him get on with his life.”
Noble reiterated this sentiment in comments made to the Sydney Morning Herald. “I’m aware the singer is a diagnosed bipolar schizophrenic, and I am aware that, whatever happened in 2016, he’s had years of no incidents while he’s been managing his condition,” the festival director said.
“At what point are we going to show compassion and forgiveness through his efforts at growth? When do we forgive people with a mental health issue at attempting to move forward in life?” Noble added that “everybody has a right to be forgiven and to show who they can be”, and said Frost was “attempting to do that.”
He continued: “Our community is one of inclusiveness… and this man deserves an opportunity. Give him a chance. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Sticky Fingers returned from their self-imposed hiatus in March of 2018. The following month, the band were slammed after giving an interview on triple j’s Hack where Frost commented that “boys will be boys” and “shit happens.” In May of that year, Frost was reportedly ejected from a Sydney pub after allegedly verbally harassing and threatening to fight a transgender woman.
In 2019, Frost and Sticky Fingers bandmate Paddy Cornwall were involved in a physical altercation with each another outside a licensed venue in Marrickville. In 2021, Cornwall received an 18-month prison sentence – served in the community – while Frost entered a rehabilitation facility.
It’s not the first time Noble – who was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2016 – has drawn criticism for defending his Bluesfest booking choices. The first lineup announcement for Bluesfest’s 2019 event was slammed for only including four acts featuring female performers. Noble complained on Facebook that critics were “SJWs” (social justice warriors) and compared denouncing the event as “the sort of thing that worked well in Nazi Germany.” Noble later walked back those comments.