Sampa the Great Has Now Also Pulled Out of Bluesfest 2023

Sampa the Great has joined King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard in withdrawing from this year's festival.
Ben Hansen
Published on February 22, 2023

Byron Bay's Bluesfest has lost another name from its 2023 lineup, with acclaimed rapper Sampa the Great pulling out of this year's festival. Just over six weeks out from the Easter long-weekend fest, Bluesfest today announced its playing times for the five-day music program and a revised lineup, both of which were missing Sampa. A member from Sampa's team confirmed to Concrete Playground that Zambian hip hop trailblazer will not be performing at the festival.

US supergroup The Soul Rebels & Friends with special guests Talib Kweli, GZA and Big Freedia also appears missing from the set times and revised lineup, however, there's been no confirmation of the group's removal from the lineup. Bluesfest was reached out to for comment on both Sampa and The Soul Rebels, but did not respond before publication.

Sampa the Great, Lucian Coman

The lineup change follows Monday's announcement that King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard had also removed themselves from the program. The band's decision to withdraw from the festival was kept reasonably vague but, in a statement, the Melbourne psych-rock group cited the festival's decision to book content that conflicts with their values as the reason they won't be appearing.

"As a band and as human beings, we stand against misogyny, racism, transphobia and violence," King Giz's statement reads. "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," continues the statement. "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."

Controversy began brewing around this year's Bluesfest after the unveiling of its sixth artist announcement which featured the band Sticky Fingers. The booking of Sticky Fingers received online backlash from others in the music industry including Jaguar Jonze and Camp Cope's Sarah Thompson.

Dylan Frost, Sticky Fingers' frontman, has been the subject of serious allegations which include physically threatening First Nations singer Thelma Plum and harassing a transgender woman at a Sydney pub. Frost and bassist Paddy Cornwall were also caught in an alleged brawl with each other in 2019 which saw Cornwall charged with affray.

Bluesfest previously faced controversy after festival director Peter Noble compared a Jewish woman to a Nazi for commenting on the gender imbalance present on the first announcement of the festival's 2018 lineup.

The festival will continue without King Giz and Sampa the Great from Thursday, April 6 until Monday, April 10 with headliners including Gang of Youths, Paolo Nutini, Tash Sultana, Bonnie Raitt, The Doobie Brothers and Beck.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Jason Galea

Bluesfest 2023 will run from Thursday, April 6–Monday, April 10 at Byron Events Farm, Tyagarah. For the most up-to-date lineup, head to the Bluesfest website.

Top image: Jordan Munns.

Published on February 22, 2023 by Ben Hansen
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