I have now read about ten articles about the collapse of the Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, and I still find it hard to comprehend.
The Fyre Festival was conceived by rapper Ja Rule and associate Billy McFarland in the Bahamas, and promoted by pop celebrities (I barely, just barely, know these people) Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, Hailey Baldwin and Bella Hadid, In a promo video posted January, the Fyre Festival promised..
“The best in food, art, music and adventure…on the boundaries of the impossible, Fyre is an experience and festival…A quest to push beyond those boundaries!”
I have no idea what that means, but it sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
“You’ll be flown roundtrip on a custom, VIP configured Boeing 737 aircraft between Miami International Airport and Exuma International Airport on Great Exuma,” said the festival’s website. “Guests will be staying in modern, eco-friendly, geodesic domes. … Unplug from the everyday and ignite your flame in the Exumas!” Among theacts scheduled to perform were Major Lazer and Blink-182, as well as a DJ “who specializes in producing ’70s and ’80s rock remixes for clients that include Middle Eastern and European royalty.”.
Celebrities with ties to the organizers tweeted and Instagrammed, building buzz about Fyre. Ja Rule tweeted just a month ago, “This is where the cool kids will be April 27-30 May 5-8!!! #fyrefestival #fyre.”
Ticket packages to experience the self-proclaimed “cultural event of the decade” included accommodations and chartered flights from Miami, with a low price of $900 and a luxury tag of $399,995 for access to the performers. Days before the festival was to begin, @fyrefestival was still ginning up anticipation.
Then the festival-goers arrived on the first day to find…nothing. Well, worse than nothing: chaos. Those who had paid $500 apiece for what the festival’s promotion described as “villas” found that the only shelter provided were FEMA-style refugee tents. There was no food, except some hastily packaged cheese sandwiches. All of the scheduled performers canceled.
The festivalgoers who hadn’t arrived by private yachts found themselves confused and stranded, with luggage but nowhere to sleep for the night. Some paid festival employees $100 to return them to the airport in a flatbed truck, but when they arrived at the airport gate, they were told that they couldn’t access the airport, requiring more bribes to get to a plane, if they were lucky. The stampede of shocked glitterati desperately trying to flee backed up the local airports, stranding many attendees in deplorable conditions, like understaffed kitchen tents with pots of uncooked food.
And where were the organizers during all this? Nowhere near the “festival,” in Ja Rule’s case. (McFarland was either partying on a yacht the first night of the festival, or he actually showed his face and tried to assist the victims of his ineptitude. I tend to the first account, because if he did show up, I would assume that he would be chum by now.) Ja Rule was performing… in Chicago. He later issued a ridiculous statement, saying in part,
“I’m heartbroken at this moment. My partners and I wanted this to be an amazing event, it was NOT A SCAM as everyone is reporting. I don’t know how everything went so left but I’m working to make it right by making sure everyone is refunded … I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT … but I’m taking responsibility I’m deeply sorry to everyone who was inconvenienced by this.”
1. If you organize and promote an event and it turns out like this one, it IS your fault. You idiot.
2. If it was a scam, at least the results could be explained as something other than someone persuading many people to trust and rely on him when he had no idea what the hell he was doing.
3. Inconvenienced? INCONVENIENCED? Selling tickets to an event in the Exumas that requires people to fly there and be met with a total fiasco is a lot more than an inconvenience.
His partner, Billy McFarland, had equally jaw-dropping comments, which included these gems..
We started this website and launched this festival marketing campaign. Our festival became a real thing and took [on] a life of its own. Our next step was to book the talent and actually make the music festival. We went out excited, and that’s when a lot of reality and roadblocks hit.
The Exumas didn’t have a really great infrastructure – there wasn’t a great way to get guests in here – we were a little bit ambitious. There wasn’t water or sewage. It was almost like we tried building a city out of nothing and it took almost all of our personal resources to make this happen, and everything we had, to make this festival go on. We thought we were ready and built two different festival sites….The morning of the festival, a bad storm came in and took down half of our tents and busted water pipes. Guests started to arrive and the most basic function we take for granted in the U.S., we realized, “Wow, we can’t do this.” We were on a rush job to fix everything and guests were arriving and that caused check-in to be delayed. We were overwhelmed and just didn’t have the foresight to solve all these problems….We thought we were making timeframes that were correct. We were a little naïve in thinking for the first time we could do this ourselves. Next year, we will definitely start earlier. The reality is, we weren’t experienced enough to keep up.