When music festivals go wrong – the biggest festival fuck-ups of all time

Overcrowded, flooded, full of riots, Limp Bizkit – which are the festivals giving Fyre Fest a run for its money as the Worst Festival Ever?

Well, who hoovered up Netflix’s Fyre documentary this week? The movie explores harrowing detail the disastrous events around the infamous ‘luxury’ Fyre Festival in the Bahamas.

Punters arrived expecting to be living in a P Diddy video with Kendall Jenner. They were airlifted out having spent tens of thousands of dollars to live in a Red Cross emergency appeal video. The event, co-headed by Ja Rule and ‘entrepreneur’ Billy McFarland, who’s now serving six years in prison for fraud,  will undoubtedly go down as one of the biggest festival fuck-ups in history. Guests expected to be jetted to the ultimate luxury VIP experience on Pablo Escobar’s private island in the Bahamas watching Blink 182 were actually subject to massive flight delays to get to a sewage-spewing refugee camp surrounded by shark-infested waters, fed smashed cheese sandwiches and got to watch precisely nobody after the festival was cancelled on day one.

Amazingly, 80 per cent of attendees are happy to snap up organiser’s offer of free tickets for a touted follow-up event this year, when presumably Bear Grylls will headline. The rest will probably just settle for their multi-million pound damages settlements, ta.

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But Ja Rule and his partners aren’t the first to make festival promoting look about as easy as Theresa May eating chips. Here are eight more examples of when festivals go wrong…


When? July 4-6, 2008

Where? Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, Kent

What was the problem? Acts pulling out; dreadful facilities; crowds, ironically, being treated like animals.

Attendees at this 2008 crapshoot held at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park must have been envious of the zoo’s animals, happily trapped in cages flinging shit at each other. Reported four hour queues to get into cramped campsites with barely any toilets or drinking water, a second stage that shut down more often than the Glastonbury ticket link, collapsing perimeter fences and acts such as Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Roni Size pulling out at the last minute when they were told there wasn’t enough money to pay them – frankly, David Attenborough and the Springwatch team could have done a better job of running a festival, while drunk.

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Bloc 2012

When? 6 July, 2012

Where? London Pleasure Gardens, East London

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What was the problem? Overcrowding.

Shifting from holiday resorts to a 60,000 capacity space in Docklands designed by the people behind Glastonbury’s Shangri-La and featuring Snoop Dogg and Orbital as headliners, Bloc 2012 looked set to mark the point where this growing electronic music shindig crash landed in East London. ‘Crash’, sadly, was the operative word. Poor sound, long queues and bars running out of booze were the least of festivalgoers problems when, fearing dangerous overcrowding, organisers shut the festival down on the first night before Snoop Dogg could perform and police were called in to evacuate the arena. Thank god you can rave to sirens, eh?

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Woodstock ‘99

When? July 22-25, 1999

Where? Griffiss Air Force Base, Rome, New York

What was the problem? Violence, arson, sexual assault, Limp Bizkit

How better to recreate the epitome of ’60s peace and love on its 30th anniversary, someone must have thought, than to book Limp Bizkit to play ‘Break Stuff’ on a toxic air force base with scant toilets, vastly overpriced junk food and no shade in the middle of July? Then, having set up the perfect conditions for a drunk jock Apocalypse Now, someone handed out Peace Candles which the crowd used to set fire to towering piles of trash while Red Hot Chili Peppers covered Hendrix’s ‘Fire’ and then set about destroying the entire site, and with it the Woodstock legacy.

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Glastonbury 2005

When? June 24-26, 2005

Where? Worthy Farm, Pilton

What was the problem? God’s biggest ever Glastonbury piss

Glastonbury has a proud heritage, when the elements conspire to wreck the weekend, of pulling up its wading trousers, necking as much Pilton Spirit it’s managed to smuggle in and damn well getting on with it. Bar the odd mishap – remember the sewage truck sent into the flooded dance tent to suck out the mud in 1998 that was accidentally set to ‘blow’, much to the indie community’s smug delight? – we’ve dealt with it fine, but 2005 was the ultimate test, when a flash storm left entire fields’ worth of tents underwater, lighting struck the John Peel Stage, you could literally paddle a stray Portaloo across the site and the whole thing felt like trying to have a massive party in the middle of the River Trent.

T In The Park 2015

When? 10-13 July, 2015

Where? Strathallan Castle, Perthshire

What was the problem? Strathallan Castle, Perthshire, plus Proclaimers

Home to the infamous ‘tactical vomit circle’, T In The Park has never been the most civilised of summer bashes, but the forced move to Strathallan Castle in 2015 exacerbated the festival’s boozy hothouse issues. With just one single-lane road in and out, traffic issues were horrific throughout the weekend, frustrating huge crowds of punters facing “queuing pandemonium” on the way in and stranding thousands in muddy car parks on the way out. Which is not to mention the bottlings, fist fights and terrifying crush to watch, would you believe, The Proclaimers. Little did those present know that they would indeed have to walk five hundred miles just to get home.


When? August 15-16, 2014

Where? Excel Centre, London

What was the problem? It didn’t happen.

Neutral Milk Hotel, James Blake, Caribou, Sun Kil Moon, Iceage, Liars, Kurt Vile, Hookworms – how brilliant was Jabberwocky Festival 2014? Or rather, how brilliant would it have been if enough people had bought tickets to let it happen? The cancellation of Jabberwocky was the highest-profile of parent company All Tomorrow’s Parties’ problems yet – having become synonymous with relocated events and unpaid debts, in 2016 acts including John Cale pulled out of an ATP event in Pontins, Prestatyn claiming that they’d been “let down” by the company and another weekender curated by Drive Like Jehu in Manchester was cancelled, the band describing the whole event as a “cruel hoax”. ATP wound up last June, presumably wishing they’d never dipped their slithy toves into the festival business.

Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival

When? 3-5 September, 1972

Where? Bull Island, Indiana

What was the problem? Glastonbury 2005 met Woodstock ‘99

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Disastrous festivals certainly aren’t a modern phenomenon, as veterans of Altamont will tell you through thousand yard stares. Amongst the worst events trying to recreate Woodstock back when promoters had more trouser fabric than sense was the Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival, touting The Eagles, The Allman Brothers and Black Sabbath as headliners to an event that would outshine Woodstock. Unfortunately the festival was banned from its initial site at the last minute and up to 300,000 people turned up at the swampland replacement site, four times the number promoters expected, and helped themselves liberally to the drugs openly for sale in a makeshift ‘shopping village’. As is traditional, torrential rain flooded the site and all sanitation systems, bands cancelled and the site descended into all-out anarchy. A food truck was hijacked, looted and burned, over-pricing vendors were robbed and rioting punters torched the main stage at the end of the festival.