Peter Noble, the director of Bluesfest, has been facing backlash over the decision to add controversial Sydney band Sticky Fingers to the 2023 Bluesfest lineup. Noble has now released an official statement defending the decision. “I was and remain proud to give the band a chance at rehabilitation,” he says.
Sticky Fingers were included in the Byron Bay event’s sixth lineup announcement last week, alongside Sampa the Great and the Archie Roach tribute, A Heartfelt Tribute to Uncle Archie. As a consequence, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard withdrew from the festival.
Peter Noble asks public to “understand, respect, and hopefully, on reflection, agree” with Sticky Fingers booking
The backlash relates to Sticky Fingers’ history of alleged antisocial behaviour, including accusations of racism, sexism and transphobia made against singer Dylan Frost, as well as repeated violent incidents. Noble made a passing reference to the band’s history in a statement alongside the original announcement, describing Sticky Fingers as “the bad boys of Australian music.”
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard were included in Bluesfest’s first lineup announcement back in September 2022, but felt compelled to pull out of the festival after learning of Sticky Fingers’ addition.
“As a band and as human beings, we stand against mysogyny, racism, transphobia and violence,” King Gizzard wrote in a statement shared on Monday, 20th February. “Surprised and saddened to see Bluesfest commit to presenting content that is in complete opposition to those values.”
Noble addresses the departure of King Gizzard in his statement, although he doesn’t use their name. “Recently, a band decided to cancel a forthcoming appearance at Bluesfest because Sticky Fingers, particularly its lead singer (who are booked to play at Bluesfest), was involved in an incident with another artist offstage a long time ago,” he says.
Noble uses the statement to double down on his decision to book the band, which he defends on the basis of the amount of time elapsed since Dylan Frost was first accused of abusive behaviour, and the fact that Frost experiences “bipolar schizophrenia and […] is also Māori”.
Read Peter Noble’s full statement below.
As is well known, I am and always have been the Director of Bluesfest.
Over the years, Bluesfest has been the promoter of music festivals which allowed diverse artists to exercise their freedom of artistic expression and have afforded the Australian public access to their works.
In the course of doing so, Bluesfest has been proud to give prominence to indigenous artists and to promote diversity in the music industry.
Recently, a band decided to cancel a forthcoming appearance at Bluesfest because Sticky Fingers, particularly its lead singer (who are booked to play at Bluesfest), was involved in an incident with another artist offstage a long time ago.
There has already been a lot of social media traffic about this decision. I think one commentator well reflects my feelings, as previously stated:
“That whole situation happened 7 years ago and the lead singer of Sticky Fingers has been extremely apologetic and open about his bipolar schizophrenia and substance abuse during that time and is also Māori. They’ve done the work to try and make amends and took a long hiatus to fix things.”
I believe an attempt to victimise this man and his band in the circumstances is cruel and unforgiving. This cruelty and lack of compassion are foreign to my values, as is the attempt to suppress the band’s artistic expression. I was and remain proud to give the band a chance at rehabilitation.
Bluesfest hopes that the public will understand, respect, and hopefully, on reflection, agree with the position my company and I have taken. Forgiveness is critical to helping people with mental health challenges continue functioning in society.
It has been suggested that because of the listing of Sticky Fingers, Bluesfest and I endorsed the lead singer’s ancient troubled behaviour. That suggestion is deplorable, untrue, and actionable as being defamatory.