Australian rock group The Vines have pulled out of their three Australian festival appearances – Homebake, Pyramid Rock and Big Day Out – as well as their upcoming Japanese tour scheduled for late November due to front man Craig Nicholls’s mental health issues.

Nicholls has Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, which escalated sharply in recent weeks and requires immediate help over an extended period of time. One of the disease’s symptons is difficulties with transitions or changes.

“On behalf of The Vines we would like to extend our sincerest apologies to those of you who have bought tickets to see us perform and will not get to do so,” band member Hamish Rosser said in a post on the band’s Web site. “We are all absolutely devastated that we’ve been forced to cancel all upcoming shows as there’s nothing we love more than playing on stage before an enthusiastic audience. We ask for your understanding in this situation”

Big Day Out Co-ordinator Sahara Herald Shepherd said in a statement: “The entire Big Day Out family is deeply saddened by the news that Craig Nicholls and his band The Vines will not be joining us on our 2009 summer tour. The Vines performances at the 2007 Big Day Out were nothing short of dazzling and they will be greatly missed. That said, we recognize that now is the time for Craig to focus on re-gaining his health. Our thoughts and best wishes are with him and his family at this time.”

Things started to unfold when Nicholls was hit with a serious recurrence of his flight-related anxiety and was unable to fly from Adelaide to Perth for the band’s November 8 show.

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