The 2017 Fyre Festival was one of the biggest music stories of this decade. Because it was an absolute disaster. Advertised as the most exclusive music festival in history, held on a private Bahamian island, it had the endorsement of multiple social media stars, such as Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid. It was going to be incredible…if you were very very rich and could spend tens of thousands of dollars on a weekend. However, it was all a giant scam and the attendees wound up on an over-crowded spit of land with almost no food, collapsing tents, soaking wet beds and no bands. The schadenfreude was delicious – so much so that two documentaries, Hulu’s Fyre Fraud and Netflix’s Fyre, are doing the rounds.
Netflix’s offering, Fyre, lays out the whole sorry tale, packed with highly emotional influencers and jaw-dropping displays of chutzpah from the festival’s organiser, Billy McFarland, who is now in jail. These are the 10 most astonishing moments…
Celebs endorse it without even knowing what Fyre is
In order to launch Fyre Festival, which will promote a talent-booking app owned by McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, a party is held on a tiny Bahamian island. Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowksi and Hayley Baldwin are among those lolling about in swimwear to promote it. Kendall Jenner is paid $250,000 to plug the festival on Instagram (not disclosing it was an ad). And what exactly was Fyre Festival going to be? At this point nobody has the slightest idea. Tickets are put on sale and sell out in days.
They fire the planner (well duh)
With less than eight weeks to plan a festival, on an island with no infrastructure or enough space for all the people who’d bought tickets (N.B – organising a music festival usually takes minimum one year), the organisers fire their planner. They do not have an immediate replacement.
There are non-existent beach houses
Keen to attract many influencers onboard, McFarland promises every big name who posts about Fyre Festival a free beach house to stay in during the festival. There are 250 influencers. Those houses do not exist. When his music festival consultant tells McFarland this will not work, he’s told, “We’re not a problem-focused group. We’re a solutions-oriented organisation. We have to keep a positive attitude.” The consultant does not.
The ‘luxury yurts’ are actually disaster tents
In a panic about where to put all the guests, the organisers start buying tents. Far from the luxury yurts advertised, they’re actually disaster tents leftover from Hurricane Matthew. And they’re not water-tight.
The organiser’s approach to negotiation is… inventive. And deplorable.
Threatened with a bill for $175,000 to get his trucks full of Evian water through customs, McFarland asks his event producer, Andy King, to go to the office of the Head of Customs and… “suck [his] dick”. Worse, King, seeing no other solution, goes off to do it, but is spared the indignity by the customs official.
Rain! Heavy rain!
The night before the festival starts, a massive rain storm soaks every single tent and almost every single mattress. People have paid a fortune to stay in something you’d turn down at Glastonbury.
An extremely unfinished site (but there is cheese)
When the attendees show up, the camp isn’t finished, so they’re taken to a bar and plied with tequila. When they eventually get to the campsite, now drunk, they find it looks like something from a movie set just after a nuclear event. No water. No dry beds, and the food is a square of cheese on some bread. These are rich kids. They’ve probably never even made a sandwich. Possibly never even seen one.
When it becomes apparent that the festival is a total horror show, the attendees go mad and start commandeering tents and hoarding toilet roll (for one night). One attendee says that in order to keep people away from the tents around him and his friends, one of his pals peed on the mattresses in the surrounding tents. Rich people are monsters.
Disgruntled workers threaten to kidnap festival staff
Weeping trustfunders turn out to be the least of the organisers’ problems. When it becomes clear they’re not going to be paid, some furious Bahamian workers take out hits on the staff, preparing to kidnap them and hold them for ransom. They flee the site.
No lessons are learned
After being investigated by the FBI and then pleading guilty to fraud, McFarland does basically the same thing again. Just before being sentenced for his fraud conviction, McFarland is arrested for trying to sell fake tickets to the likes of Burning Man and the Met Gala (for some reason he has a friend film him committing this fraud). He is sent to prison for six years. He is still there and has not announced plans of any further festivals.