Malaysia music festival shut down after Matty Healy same-sex kiss

Matty Healy

A music festival in Malaysia has been shut down after Matty Healy, frontman of British indie band The 1975, called out the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws and shared same-sex kiss onstage.

On Friday (21 June), The 1975’s show at Good Vibes Festival in Kuala Lumpur was cut short after singer-songwriter and guitarist Healy blasted the southeast Asian nation’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights, telling the crowd that playing there had been a “mistake”.

“I do not see the point of inviting the 1975 to a country and then telling us who we can have sex with,” Healy said, before kissing the band’s bassist, Ross MacDonald.

Just 30 minutes into their set, Healy announced that their performance had been cut, saying: “Alright, we just got banned from Kuala Lumpur, see you later.”

Now the rest of the entire festival has been cancelled.

On Saturday (22 July), Good Vibes Festival confirmed they had been ordered to cancel the next two days of the three-day event by the Malaysian Ministry of Communications and Digital, due to Healy’s “conduct and remarks”.

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The festival was set to run from Friday 21 to Sunday 23 July, with performances from Australian rapper The Kid Laroi and US rock band The Strokes.

The statement, posted to social media, read: “We deeply regret to announce that the remaining schedule … planned for today and tomorrow has been cancelled following the controversial conduct and remarks made by UK artist Matty Healy from the band The 1975.

“This 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.”

There are currently no rights or protections for LGBTQ+ people in Malaysia. Same-sex intimacy is punishable by caning, fines or up to 20 years in prison. Queer people face so-called ‘conversion therapy’ practices, and the gender expression of trans folk is explicitly criminalised.

In May, the Malaysian authorities seized thousands of pounds-worth of Pride-themed watches in raids on Swatch stores.

Although some fans praised Healy’s actions at the festival, others were quick to dub it a “stunt”. One social media user wrote that it “did nothing at all to help the queer people in Malaysia”, while several others used the term “white saviour” to describe his behaviour.

Another posted: “Can fellow Western queers in the quotes please stop celebrating this? This isn’t a ‘rare W’ from Matty Healy, because he’s now got the Good Vibes Festival cancelled which was a safe space for queer Malaysians who live in a country where being queer is criminalised.”

Healy also garnered mixed reactions for a same-sex kiss at a show in Dubai in 2019, where he kissed a male fan in defiance of the United Arab Emirate’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

Consensual sexual activity between men is illegal in the Middle Eastern country, and local LGBTQ+ activists warned that Healy may have put the fan at risk with his actions. Healy later said he regretted the decision and that he “felt pretty irresponsible”.

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