Music festival in Malaysia cancelled after on-stage kiss by The 1975 sparks controversy

By Hugo Mercer July 22, 2023

Following Matthew Healy’s on-stage protest against anti-LGBTQ+ laws, the Good Vibes Festival 2023 in Malaysia was dramatically cancelled, rousing international debate.

The abrupt termination of Malaysia’s Good Vibes Festival 2023 has engendered considerable controversy. This sudden cessation resulted from what the festival’s organizers, Future Sound Asia (FSA), have termed "controversial conduct" by Matthew Healy, member of the headline band "The 1975".

Healy's protest against Malaysia's anti-LGBTQ+ legislation took form in the overt action of a public kiss with a male colleague upon the stage. This rendering of defiance against anti-LGBTQ+ policies took both the audience and the event planners by surprise, leading to an immediate halt to the vibrant festival.

Following a directive by the Malaysian government’s Ministry of Communications and Digital, issued suddenly in response to the incident, FSA proceeded to cancel the event. In a statement released on Saturday and shared widely with The Daily News, FSA allocated the brunt of the responsibility for the festival's closure on Healy and his band.

This contentious impasse emerged when Healy, after delivering a speech expressing his disapproval of the country’s discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, kissed his bandmate, Ross MacDonald, on stage. Consequently, the band "The 1975" has now found itself banned from Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur.

In the aftermath, FSA has expressed concerns regarding the potentially substantial financial ramifications likely to be endured due to the concert's premature termination. The fallout from such an unexpected act by an individual not present to face the consequences is an issue they’re grappling with, considering the potential backlash from fans, industry insiders, and the general public.

The influence of homophobia in Malaysia, a country where homosexuality is not only discouraged but legally penalized, casts a dark shadow on the incident. Despite claims from Malaysia’s tourism minister in 2019 that the country does not have any LGBTQ+ residents amongst its 34 million strong population, a study carried out by Ipsos begs to differ. The research unearthed that nearly 12% of Malaysians self-identify as having same-sex attraction in whole or in part.