Asia News: Matt Healy Rant Kills Malaysia Fest; Blackpink On In Vietnam; Head In The Clouds Comes To China

Southside Festival 2023
MATTHEW HEALY of The 1975 performs at Southside Festival 2023 at Take-off Gewerbepark on June 16 in Neuhausen, Germany. A few short weeks later he’d be persona non grata in Malaysia. (Photo by Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)


Not So Good Vibes As Fest Canceled

Following an expletive-laden, anti-government tirade by lead singer Matt Healy during The 1975’s Friday night headlining performance at the three-day Good Vibes Festival in Kuala Lumpur July 21, the remaining two days of the festival were cancelled.

Healy, who, according to the Straits Times, was holding a bottle of wine at the time he made the remarks, took issue with Malaysia’s anti-LGBTQ policy, which criminalizes homosexuality. He told the capacity crowd, “I made a mistake when we were booking the shows,” suggesting that if the band had known of the policy they wouldn’t have agreed to come.

“I’m sorry if that offends you and you’re religious…If you push, I’m gonna push back,” he said, though he added, “That’s not fair on you, because you’re not representative of your government. You are young people, and I’m sure a lot of you are gay and progressive.” After the speech, bassist Ross MacDonald came over to Healy and the two men kissed.

In the end, the band ended up playing only seven songs after which Healy announced, “We just got banned from Kuala Lumpur. I’ll see you later.” Apparently, the organizers told the group they were cutting short the appearance, after they “failed to comply with local performance guidelines.”

The next day, in a series of tweets, Malaysia’s Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil said he ordered the immediate cancellation of the rest of the festival and that the organizers, Future Sound Asia, would refund tickets. “The position of the Unity Government is very clear,” he wrote. “There is no compromise against any party that challenges, disparages and violates Malaysian law.”

Among the acts scheduled to perform that weekend included The Kid Laroi and The Strokes. The ministry also filed a police report against The 1975 and festival organizers for failing to comply with the government’s conditions for performing in Malaysia. The organizers, who have been holding the annual festival for more than 10 years, had previously assured authorities that they would be responsible for all the artists’ actions while in the country.

Malaysians were more than disappointed. Social media was filled with comments disparaging Healy for his “disrespectful” attitude and “surface-level activism.”

Future Sound Asia, which is reportedly considering a lawsuit against The 1975, released a statement saying that the incident could “erode the confidence of music promoters and various stakeholders, and threaten the stability of our burgeoning live arts scene.”

It didn’t stop there. The 1975 subsequently cancelled the rest of their Asian tour, which included another festival in Indonesia and a show in Taiwan. Though Healy had joked online about the Malaysian controversy soon afterwards, the band later released a statement saying, “The band never takes 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.” Same-sex relationships are legal in Indonesia except for Aceh province, though same-sex marriage is not. However, Taiwan’s was the first government in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

Asia News Network reported July 24 that a group of lawyers is working on a pro bono class action suit against The 1975 brought by Malaysian artists and vendors. The lawyers are now soliciting people who may possess “information” that has a “bearing on the suit,” such as location of the group’s assets. They have also called a “townhall meeting” with concerned parties to discuss the matter.


Blackpink Show Still A Go

Blackpink’s shows in Vietnam on July 29-30 are still a go despite controversy surrounding the promoters’ website, which was found to contain a map of the waters off Vietnam with the notorious nine-dash line created by China to mark its self-proclaimed territory, according to India’s Morning Express.

Vietnam bans such maps because they represent an encroachment on its own exclusive economic zone. The promoter, IME Global, which is headquartered in Beijing, has since apologized for the map, and the government eventually took a lenient stance toward the matter and allowed the concerts to proceed based on the idea that the shows had a diplomatic purpose.

However, the main concern a week before the concerts was security, since the Blackpink shows, their first in Vietnam, are the largest to ever take place in the country. There had been some worry about coordination with various security organizations as well as guaranteeing enough security personnel. The organizers have said that they are doing their best to “meet international standards.”

In addition, fans had earlier expressed anxiety about the set list, which was posted on a government Facebook page and included only 13 songs.

The group’s management, YG Entertainment, assured fans that more songs would be performed during the show, but, according to the website Modern Diplomacy, doubts persisted. Another problem was the ticket pricing, which many fans said was exorbitant, especially compared to prices for Blackpink concerts in other Southeast Asian cities.

Hanoi is the last stop on this stage of Blackpink’s worldwide “Born Pink Tour,” which has become the highest-grossing tour ever for an Asian female artist.


Head In The Clouds Expands

88Rising, the Los Angeles-based Asian music collective, announced it will expand its Head in the Clouds festival to China in September, following successful editions in Los Angeles, Jakarta, Manila and New York.

The festival will take place in the southeast city of Guangzhou on September 23 and 24.

No venue or lineups have been announced yet, but prior to the Guangzhou blowout the festival will set down in Jakarta on Sept. 9 and take part in the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix on September 15.

Among the Asian acts that will play these events are Jackson Wang, NIKI, Rich Brian, Warren Hue, XG and Atarashii Gakko.