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Malaysia festival axed after The 1975 controversy

Promoters pulled the plug on the Good Vibes Festival after The 1975's Matty Healy criticised the country's anti-LGBT laws on stage

By James Hanley on 22 Jul 2023

The 1975 are represented by Matt Bates, Primary Talent, worldwide

Malaysia’s Good Vibes Festival has been cancelled after The 1975 frontman Matty Healy hit out at the country’s strict anti-LGBT laws and kissed a male bandmate on stage.

The British band were headlining the first day of the festival’s 10th anniversary edition, promoted by Future Sound Asia. The event 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.

The BBC reports that Healy criticised the government’s stance on homosexuality in a “profanity-laden speech” before kissing bassist Ross MacDonald. The performance was then cut short 30 minutes into the set, with the group claiming they had been ordered off stage by officials.

Homosexuality is a crime in Malaysia, punishable by 20 years in prison.

A source close to the 1975 tells 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.”

“The ministry has underlined its unwavering stance against any parties that challenge, ridicule or contravene Malaysian laws”

Good Vibes Festival (GVF) organisers outlined the reasons for the cancellation in a statement.

“We deeply regret to announce that the remaining schedule of Good Vibes Festival 2023 planned for today and tomorrow has been cancelled following the controversial conduct and remarks made by UK artist Matt Healy from the band The 1975,” says the statement.

“The decision adheres to the immediate cancellation directive issued at 1.20pm, 22 July 2023, by the ministry of communications and digital. The ministry has underlined its unwavering stance against any parties that challenge, ridicule or contravene Malaysian laws.

“We sincerely apologise to all of our ticket holders, vendors, sponsors and partners. We are aware of the time, energy and efforts you have put into making this festival a success, and we value your steadfast support. We will update you on refund mechanics as soon as possible. We appreciate your understanding and continued support during this challenging time.”

Future Sound Asia (FSA) founder and director Ben Law elaborates on the situation in an additional statement published by the New Straits Times.

“The cancellation of GVF deals a catastrophic financial blow to FSA. However, the repercussions of this incident extends beyond us”

“Over the past 10 years, we have built GVF to be a uniquely Malaysian platform for enjoyable music experiences,” says Law. “Now, this decade-long labour of love faces an unprecedented threat due to the actions of an individual.

“This is a challenging time for us. The cancellation of GVF deals a catastrophic financial blow to FSA. However, the repercussions of this incident extends beyond us. 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.

“As festival organisers, FSA appreciates the trust our fans and authorities have placed in us over the years. We take our role in providing a safe, enjoyable music experience very seriously.”

FSA says that, prior to the group’s set, it was reassured by The 1975’s management team that Healy and the band “would adhere to local performance guidelines”.

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

“Healy’s unprofessional behaviour and defiance of laws and regulations are disturbing and that he chose to use his performance as a platform to express his personal views, rather than delivering the quality show that his fans were anticipating. This act is unfair to fans who were looking forward to enjoying a memorable music experience.

“We are committed to learning from this experience and taking steps to reinforce communication with artists and their management teams. We will emphasise the importance of professionalism and adherence to local regulations to ensure that future events are conducted with even greater care and diligence.”

Healy previously defied Dubai’s anti-LGBTQ rules by kissing a male audience member during a concert in 2019.


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