Bluesfest, Soul Rebels Tour Butt Heads Over Terminated Contract – Billboard


BRISBANE, Australia — A brouhaha between Bluesfest and a touring party that includes the Soul Rebels and Big Freedia is entering legal territory after the groups — which also includes Talib Kweli and GZA — has jointly claimed they were canceled by the Australian event “in bad faith and in breach of contract.”

All of those acts were initially slated to perform at the festival this Easter in Byron Bay, in addition to several theater shows on Australia’s east coast promoted by Bluesfest Touring.

And then, they weren’t.

When the second artist announcement for Bluesfest dropped in October 2022, the growing lineup included The Soul Rebels & Friends with special guests Talib Kweli, GZA and Big Freedia.

The bill as it stands for Bluesfest 2023 no longer features the four acts.

A strongly worded statement from the tour’s reps, seen by Billboard, lays all the blame at Bluesfest and its director Peter Noble.

“The artists had fully executed signed contracts with Peter Noble and had already booked travel to Australia and were looking forward to returning to the country to perform for their fans,” the statement reads.

“Peter Noble removed the artists and the tour without further communication or reason from Bluesfest other than him stating his decision to not want to pay the artists.”

Furthermore, it continues, “these are all black artists, and Big Freedia is an LGBTQ icon.”



Courtesy Bluesfest

The statement then points to the controversial Australian rock group Sticky Fingers, which, after a weeks-long backlash, has been removed from the lineup.

“It appears the tour may have been replaced by other artists including Sticky Fingers,” reads the statement, which was originally distributed to a handful of media outlets in late February, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Double J network. “We are uncertain about who else on Bluesfest may have also been cancelled.”

Noble’s “cancellation of the tour of the aforementioned artists and on Bluesfest has resulted in significant financial loss to the artist,” the statement continues. “Peter’s egregious treatment and disregard of his contractual and moral obligations and disrespect can be completely supported by his actions and written communications.”

Speaking with Billboard on Friday (March 3), Noble read from a prepared statement from Bluesfest’s lawyers.

“The termination of the Soul Rebels contract by Bluesfest has nothing to do with the announcement of Sticky Fingers playing at Bluesfest 2023,” the statement reads. “The Soul Rebels contract was terminated because they did not comply with the contractual terms. By that, we mean, Soul Rebels, Big Freedia, GZA and Talib Kweli.”

Noble declined to go off script.

The impresario and his long-running festival have rolled with many punches these past few years, from the pandemic to floods, to the border closures and public health orders which saw the 2021 edition nixed just hours before showtime.

In the new year, a new problem.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Sampa The Great recently bailed from the bill, a boycott to the booking of Sticky Fingers, whose frontman has a well-publicized and controversial past.

On Thursday of this week, after a weeks-long backlash on social media, Noble and Bluesfest announced that Sticky Fingers “is to step off the Bluesfest 2023 line-up.”

The 2023 edition of Bluesfest is set for April 6-10 at Byron Events Farm, with headliners including Gang of Youths, Paolo Nutini, Tash Sultana, Bonnie Raitt, the Doobie Brothers and more. Last year’s event reported more than 100,000 attendees.


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