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Legal action mooted as The 1975 row escalates

The remainder of Malaysia's Good Vibes Festival was cancelled after frontman Matty Healy attacked the country's anti-LGBT laws on stage

By James Hanley on 24 Jul 2023

Matty Healy

image © Markus Hillgärtner

The 1975 could face a class action lawsuit from Malaysian artists and vendors as the fallout from the cancelled Good Vibes Festival (GVF) rumbles on.

The British band’s opening night headline set was cut short by officials on Friday (21 July) after frontman Matty Healy criticised Malaysia’s strict anti-LGBT laws and kissed a male bandmate on stage.

Healy told the audience: “I made a mistake. When we were booking shows, I wasn’t looking into it. I don’t see the fucking point, right, I do not see the point of inviting The 1975 to a country and then telling us who we can have sex with.”

After kissing bassist Ross MacDonald on the mouth, Healy added: “I am sorry if that offends you and you’re religious and it’s part of your fucking government, but your government are a bunch of fucking retards and I don’t care anymore.”

Healy’s “controversial conduct and remarks” led the ministry of communications and digital to pull the remaining two days of the Future Sound Asia (FSA)-promoted festival. Homosexuality is a crime in Malaysia, punishable by 20 years in prison.

“There will be no compromise with any party that challenges, belittles or violates Malaysian laws”

“There will be no compromise with any party that challenges, belittles or violates Malaysian laws,” said Malaysian communications and digital minister Fahmi Fadzil.

Meanwhile, Malaysian lawyer Mathew Thomas Philip announced on Facebook that he is heading up a pro bono legal team working on a class action suit against The 1975. The first draft, which names all four band members, says it is seeking damages for local artists and vendors for losses resulting from the group’s alleged “negligence”.

The New Straits Times reports that one of the 28 food vendors at GVF issued a video plea to the communication and digital ministry to reconsider its decision to cancel the event, having spent RM15,000 (€3,000) just on preparing food stock.

“This is not a small amount for small entrepreneurs like us,” says the business owner. “What does this mean for us? How do we move forward from this? Please help us save Good Vibes 2023 and punish those who are actually at fault instead of us, who are here to participate and to do what we do best.

“Everyone needs to consider that a lot of money has been spent to ensure that everyone has good times and good vibes. We should not be penalised for one person messing it up for everyone.”

FSA described the festival’s cancellation as “a catastrophic financial blow”

Police chief Comm Datuk Hussein Omar Khan says the band left the country on Saturday morning.

“In terms of action against the band, there is not much that can be done,” he tells The Star. “That said, we will hold the [festival] organisers responsible for their actions.”

GVF’s 10th anniversary edition was scheduled to run at Sepang International Circuit from 21-23 July and feature performances by the likes of The Strokes, The Kid Laroi and Dermot Kennedy. FSA described the festival’s cancellation as “a catastrophic financial blow”.

However, the repercussions of this incident extends beyond us,” says company director Ben Law. “We fear it will erode the confidence of music promoters and stakeholders in the live entertainment industry in the nation and threaten our burgeoning live arts scene.”

Law says organisers had been reassured by The 1975’s management team prior to their set that the band “would adhere to local performance guidelines”.

“One can appreciate the meaning of Healy’s protest, but I think the timing of it may not necessarily benefit folks”

“Regrettably, Healy did not honour these assurances, despite our trust in their commitment,” he adds. “His actions took us by surprise, and we halted the show as promptly as feasible following the incident.”

FSA director of entertainment Wan Alman tells the BBC World Service: “I think it was very unfortunate that the festival had to be cancelled and I think it’s very easy for him to fly in and do whatever he thinks that he wants to do without having to face or taking accountability for any consequences for his actions while the ones who suffer the implications are his fans here, because his set was cut short, the festival organisers and I think the industry as a whole.”

A source close to the 1975 told the BBC: “Matty has a long-time record of advocating for the LGBTQ+ community and the band wanted to stand up for their LGBTQ+ fans and community.” Healy’s sole public comment since the incident came via an Instagram post on Saturday, which said: “OK, well why don’t you try and not make out with Ross for 20 years. Not as easy as it looks.”

The 34-year-old, who previously defied Dubai’s anti-LGBTQ rules by kissing a male audience member during a concert in 2019, received plaudits from his actions internationally, but the reaction from the LGBTQ+ community in Malaysia has been mixed.

“One can appreciate the meaning of Healy’s protest, but I think the timing of it may not necessarily benefit folks,” Thilaga Sulathireh of the LGBTQ+ group Justice for Sisters tells the Washington Post. “Political parties are currently campaigning, and we know LGBT issues are often scapegoated.”

The 1975 cancelled their shows in Indonesia and Taiwan “due to current circumstances”

James Chin, an expert on Malaysia at the University of Tasmania, adds: “Among the Muslim communities of Southeast Asia, they see LGBT rights as part of this Western agenda to impose cultural values on other countries, especially Muslim countries.

“One of the problems with trying to promote these sorts of things around the world is that without the local context, you tend to get it wrong.”

Speaking to the BBC World Service, meanwhile, Malaysian drag queen Carmen Rose says: “I think there is a right place and time to do that and how you deliver the message that he delivered, and it was very obvious that he was intoxicated and he wasn’t in the right space to do that.

“The way he said it and the way he delivered it, I think it’s very performative. It’s giving ‘white saviour complex’ and he wasn’t doing it for our community because if he was doing it for our community he would know what the consequences we would have to go through.

“Right now the state elections [are] just around the corner, and the politicians are going to use this as a scapegoat, or it gives them more ammo to further their homophobic agenda to gain votes.”

The 1975, whose live career is guided by agent Matt Bates of Primary Talent International, cancelled yesterday’s slot at Jakarta’s We the Fest in Indonesia and tomorrow night’s show at Taiwan’s Taipei Music Center “due to current circumstances”.


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