Disasters are no laughing matter. Hurricane Katrina. Spanish Flu. Britpop. All terrible.
But sometimes a disaster can be funny, and the Fyre Festival 2017 is just such an occasion. Let us all take a mighty huff of Schadenfreude and delve into one of the biggest festival meltdowns since Dashcon 2014.
It all began when forgotten mid-00s R&B singer Ja Rule and venture capitalist Billy McFarland decided to create a new music festival. According to the titter-worthy apology which you can read here, apparently the two bonded over a”mutual interest in technology, the ocean, and rap music.” Though I suspect the mutual interest was money. Money, money, money and the speedy acquisition of such.
The Fyre Festival would be a “once in a lifetime” experience with live music, sand and sea. The Festival promised a weekend in the Bahamas on a private island and boasted celebrity chefs and accommodation in specially designed “geodesic domes“.
If you think the idea of paying up to $1,500 a ticket to spend a couple of days Instagramming and living in a hamster ball appeals exclusively to complete wankers, then you’d be right.
As it happens Billy McFarland has a history of going after rich white kids. McFarland has previously founded a company, Magnises, with the aim of creating an exclusive “black card” for savvy urbanites to enjoy. Special perks include club membership, reservations in up-market eateries and tickets to sell-out shows such as Hamilton. Curiously that venture didn’t turn out so well either…
Rumblings of discontent began as early as March, where a festival organizer wrote that the festival would be postponed to the year after, to allow the planning needed to ensure the event wouldn’t be a humiliating disaster for all involved. How unforeseeable it was when Ja Rule and McFarland decided to plow straight ahead, opting for money now as opposed to money in a year’s time. Fyre Festival 2017 was happening.
Opening day arrives and the first chartered flights begin to leave Miami for Exuma International in the Bahamas. Eager attendees discover the ‘exclusive’ island retreat is actually just a stone’s throw from a Sandals resort. The ‘geodesic domes’ are nowhere to be seen. The guests, by now a little restless and apprehensive, are taken to the beach for a welcoming party to disguise the fact the accommodation is a bombsite.
After a local band performs, the guests finally see their living quarters which is a ramshackle collection of tents which may have been surplus from the disaster-relief provided during Hurricane Matthew. The grounds are filthy, luggage is going missing and there are reports of looting and affray. The festival-goers, whose only currency is based on a wristband which is used to purchase items onsite, are fed cheese sandwiches with a handful of greens in Styrofoam boxes. There’s no electricity or running water.
The following day flights from Miami are halted as word gets out that the festival won’t be running to schedule. By now it is doubtful whether anyone will actually perform. The headliners Blink 182 pulled out the day before, whilst Disclosure and Major Lazer were vaguely announced earlier in the year, with nothing further said of them. The A-Listers who promoted the festival including Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner (what a month she’s had) are nowhere to be seen as Ja Rule advised them avoid the first weekend altogether.
Eventually flights are arranged to get the attendees home. A refund option is put forward but guests are given the choice to hold onto their ticket to get the real deal next year. ‘Fool me twice’ and all that.
Now that the dust (and sand) has begun to settle even more details are pouring in of what a mammoth disaster the festival was. A $100 million lawsuit is already on the way.
Ja Rule for his part apologised, stating he was taking responsibility, before clarifying “THIS WAS NOT MY FAULT” to even things out.
In the end it’s difficult to sympathise with anyone who bought tickets for something that, even if it ran to schedule, was a foul display of decadence at best. Though you have to feel for the journalists, performers who were supposed to play there (they weren’t paid, by the way) or basically anyone who wasn’t there strictly by choice.
Let it be a cautionary tale to all the image-conscious millennials out there, looking for a festival just for them and their photogenic, filter-savvy, unbearable friends. If disaster befalls you, the world reacts first with amusement, and then much later sympathy.