The Cat Empire announce final show with original line-up at Bluesfest 2022

They’re set to headline the festival’s opening night, joining the bill with Caravãna Sun and Tijuana Cartel

The Cat Empire have been announced as the headliners for the opening night of Bluesfest 2022, marking the Melbourne ska legends’ last ever show in their current form.

The band had previously revealed that they plan to disband after 20 years, saying back in September that “a new incarnation” of the group – described as “a re-imagined, vibrant, cross-cultural, and joyful collective of musicians and artists” led by founding members Ollie McGill and Felix Riebl – will debut shortly.

Bluesfest director Peter Noble announced today (November 3) that before launching what he’s dubbed ‘The Cat Empire II’ (it is currently unknown if the band themselves plan to rebrand), McGill, Riebl and their current bandmates will farewell The Cat Empire as we know it on the night of Thursday April 14.

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In a press release, Noble said: “It’s going to be a magnificent celebration when The Cat Empire play their final ever show Easter Thursday at Bluesfest after 20 years, including an incredible 16 performances at Bluesfest in that time.

“We always believed they would be a major band, everywhere, when we first saw them play at the Prince Bandroom, St Kilda, all those years ago, and booked them as a result. Now they are known and loved all over the world. It will be interesting to see what everyone from the original lineup does in future.”

In addition to The Cat Empire, Sydney surf-rockers Caravãna Sun and Gold Coast indie-pop trio Tijuana Cartel have been added to the bill for next year’s Bluesfest. Today’s press release notes that both acts will play the festival’s mainstage before The Cat Empire.

The line-up for Bluesfest 2022 has grown exponentially over the last few months, now sitting at a total of 85 acts with even more set to be announced in the coming months. Other headliners for the event so far include Jimmy Barnes, Paul Kelly and Midnight Oil, the latter of whom were originally poised to launch their new album at the festival on its previous date in October this year.

Amy Shark led the most recent addition to the bill, after the Hoodoo Gurus, Baker Boy and more were added in October. The announcement came shortly after organisers revealed that Bluesfest 2022 would revert back to a five-day event, kicking off on April 14 and wrapping up on April 19.

Bluesfest last went down in 2019, with COVID-19 preventing it from going ahead in 2020, as well as both postponed dates in 2021. After the festival was cancelled one day ahead of its opening back in April, a study found that its postponement to October – which was then knocked back even further – resulted in an economic loss of $181million.

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The Cat Empire formed in 1999 with McGill on keyboards and Riebl on percussion and lead vocals, alongside Ryan Monro on double bass. They expanded to a six-piece two years later, with Harry James Angus (trumpet and guitar), Will Hull-Brown (drums) and Jamshid “DJ Jumps” Khadiwhala (turntables) performing with the group since 2001.

The band made sure to note that their breakup wasn’t spurred on by any animosity or frayed relationships within the group, stating that they “leave each other with full hearts, healthy relationships, and a deep respect for each other and the musical journey we have shared together and with the world”.

The Cat Empire will perform one final run of headline shows in its current form this December, hitting stages in south-east Queensland, Perth and Melbourne. The latter performance will also be live-streamed on December 18. Tickets and details for all shows are available from the band’s website.

The band have also released an archival compilation titled ‘The Adelphia Sessions’, described as “a hybrid of select tracks” from their live albums ‘The Sun’ and ‘Live @ Adelphia’. More new music has been teased for release before the year’s end, with their 2006 album ‘Cities’ also set to make its streaming debut later this month.

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