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Malaysia's government cancels festival after The 1975's Matty Healy kisses a bandmate

Matty Healy of The 1975 performs live on stage during day two of Lollapalooza Brazil on March 25.
Mauricio Santana
Getty Images
Matty Healy of The 1975 performs live on stage during day two of Lollapalooza Brazil on March 25.

Matty Healy is known for sharing a kiss on stage, typically with a stranger, as part of his performance.

But in Malaysia, that routine act — this time, kissing male bandmate Ross MacDonald — led to a host of trouble for the band and the music festival that had invited the group to play.

On Saturday, the Malaysian government canceled the annual Good Vibes Festival, which was set to run until Sunday, as well as banned The 1975 from ever performing in Malaysia again — adding that the band displayed "rude" actions and statements.

"The government is always committed to supporting the development of creative industries and freedom of expression. However, never touch the sensitivities of the community, especially those that are against the manners and values ​​of the local culture," Fahmi Fadzil, the country's communications minister, wroteon Twitter.

The British pop rock band performed at the festival in Kuala Lumpur, the nation's capital, on Friday night. During their set, Healy informed the audience that he had made a "mistake" agreeing to come to the country.

"When we were booking shows, I wasn't looking into it," he said. "I don't see the point of inviting The 1975 to a country and then telling us who we can have sex with."

Healy went on to deliver an impassioned speech criticizing the country's anti-LGBTQ laws. Then, he gestured to the group's bassist, Ross MacDonald, to come closer and the two kissed and embraced before they went on to perform "I Like America and America Likes Me."

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, a Muslim-majority nation. A statement on the festival's website says Malaysia's Ministry of Communications stands "against any parties that challenge, ridicule or contravene Malaysian laws."

This isn't the first such action by Healy. In 2019, the singer kisseda male audience member at a concert in Dubai in defiance of anti-LGBTQ laws there.

The band was scheduledto perform in another Muslim-majority country, Indonesia, on Sunday, and Taiwan on Tuesday, but cancelled the concerts at short notice on Sunday morning.

"The 1975 regret to announce that their forthcoming shows in Jakarta and Taipei will no longer be going ahead as planned," the band said in a statement Sunday on the We The Fest Instagram page.

"The band never take the decision to cancel a show lightly and had been eagerly looking forward to playing for fans in Jakarta and Taipei but unfortunately, due to current circumstances, it is impossible to proceed with the scheduled shows."

There are local laws discriminating against LGBTQ+ people in Indonesia but its national laws have never made homosexuality a crime. Taiwan is home to a large LGBTQ community.

The band's team did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment.

NPR's Chloe Veltman contributed reporting.

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Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.