Thanks to Netflix’s new documentary, FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened and Hulu’s new documentary Fyre Fraud, 2017’s notorious luxury music festival is back in the headlines. It’s also trending on Twitter where Ja-Rule has defended his role as co-founder and organiser with the now-jailed Billy McFarland.
The event was scheduled to happen over two weekends in April and May in 2017 on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma. It was sold as an exclusive, unprecedented immersive experience like no other and VIP packages which included flights, a celebrity chef and a luxury villa were sold for US $12,000 (AUD $16,700). But as the documentaries show, the organisers – and McFarland in particular – were in over their heads and when guests arrived on the island via commercial flights and yellow school buses (and not the private planes and cars they were promised), there were hundreds of emergency-relief tents in lieu of the modern dome villas, many of which were soaking and mud-filled from a storm the night before.
There was no water or not enough food on the island. And while Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, Alexandra Ambrosio and Hailey Baldwin were paid to promote the event on their Instagram accounts months prior, one festival guest with a humble 400 followers tweeted out a picture of a sad cheese sandwich in a styrofoam box and it was all over. No publicity company anywhere could salvage the festival.
There were huge red flags though in the lead up to the event. So, let’s presume you were paying guest. We want to know, at which point would you have pulled out?
- When your friend asks you to Venmo him US$12,000 for a villa on an island you were told was once owned by Pablo Escobar. Emily Ratajkowski endorsed it, Ja-Rule is organising it and a quick Google search shows a paradise destination with beautiful people, swimming baby pigs and an experience like no other. The music line-up though wasn’t released. Do you part with your money?
- A website showing pictures of white emergency tents erected on the festival island instead of luxury villas pops up. Do you believe it?
- When hundreds of people start commenting on Fyre’s Instagram and Facebook page saying they haven’t received the confirmations for their flights and don’t know where to go. Do you become suss?
- When you email the customer service email asking questions like, ‘Where do we go?’ and receive no answer. Do you cancel your plans?
- When you arrive at the airport but instead of a private jet, you board a commercial aircraft with Fyre Festival plastered on the side of it. And it’s worse than economy. Do you get off the plane?
- When you board an old yellow school bus on Great Exuma island. You were promised a car service and as you’re on your way there, the local driver tells you the festival organisers haven’t even finished the camp site. As you approach the site, you can see white domes, mattresses stacked up on the side of the road and people actually start yelling on the bus, ‘Turn around! We want to go back to the airport.” Do you pay the bus driver to go back?
- When you’re waiting in a line of hundreds of people to check-in to your “villa” which you now know is a tent with wet mud from a storm last night. Festival organiser Billy McFarland stands up on a table-top and tells you to RUN for a mattress. Suddenly everything feels a little Lord Of The Flies. It’s become barbaric, people are looting and even urinating on mattresses to reserve them. Are you panicking yet?
- If you have got to this point, I’m amazed. There is no way off the island at the moment and even if you do pay off some local drivers to get you to the airport, there are no flights to get the hundreds and hundreds of Fyre guests home. You don’t have any water. But you do have a cheese sandwich in a Styrofoam box. Your journey ends here.
FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is streaming now on Netflix and Fyre Fraud is streaming now on Hulu.