Large-scale music festivals have long been the source of wanderlust horror stories. From logistical missteps that result in thousands of stranded attendees to food shortages to drug overdoses, concertgoers looking for the experience of a lifetime often get much more than they bargained for. That was certainly the case for the starry-eyed patrons of Fyre Festival, which was supposed to start off with a Bahamian bang on Thursday, April 27th.
As you may have seen on Instagram and Twitter this morning, the hashtag #FyreFestival is trending in the worst way. Why? Because what was billed as an exclusive event that would feature “first-class culinary experiences and luxury atmosphere” (via fyrefestival.com) with ticket prices in the thousands turned out to be less glitzy, more post-apocalyptic in its execution. Fyre was the brainchild of Ja Rule and Billy McFarland, who decided to host a weekend-long concert in The Exumas featuring acts like Major Lazer and Blink-182 after bonding over their “mutual interest in technology, the ocean, and rap music” (via fyrefestival.com). Again, just to clarify, these shared interests are the justification for a multi-million dollar business partnership with the intent of essentially building a self-sustained island party town from scratch, not their reason for swiping right on each other on Bumble.
I won’t dwell too much on the numerous gaffes festival planners for Fyre made—rest assured that they were many and varied. In brief, Fyre’s inability to deliver on promises of luxury accommodations (FEMA tents), gourmet food (some killer looking cheese sandwiches), high-tech wristbands that would eliminate the need for cash (about as useful as an arm full of silly bands at an event struggling to keep the lights on), and big name artists like Blink-182 (to be replaced by a dolphin) rivaled the ineptitude of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. You remember, when reporters were showing up at hotels with a shortage of running water and an excess of wild dogs, all the while watching aging Russian women spray paint the grass green?
#FyreFestival has to be a social experiment. Surely. "How gullible are rich millennials: a case study of the use of influencers in Exuma"
— karalena. (@SimplyKaralena) April 28, 2017
I want extreme vetting for #fyrefestival refugees
— Cambridge Spamalytic (@cdwait) April 29, 2017
Frankly, I’m not surprised that an amateur attempt to cash in on the lucrative festival trend went so completely awry. Figuring out how to safely deal with what amounts to a small village full of drunk people demanding to be entertained is a daunting task that requires strategic, ruthlessly efficient planning. Clearly, this didn’t happen in Fyre’s case.
What is even more morbidly entertaining than the spectacular failure of the festival itself however, is the near-universal response of those watching the proverbial explosion from afar. Social media has been inundated with posts dubbing the event “rich kids of Instagram meets Hunger Games.” Variations of this idea are everywhere—in a sense, the failures of Fyre Festival have successfully revealed the popular stereotype regarding huge music festivals in exotic locales, e.g. that they are reserved for and often dominated by that particular breed of self-obsessed, parent-bankrolled rich kid.
Events like Ultra and Coachella have become the music festival equivalent of the Met Gala, a sort of who’s who of endorsed social media stars and “it” girl celebrities. It’s no surprise that the Internet has found ample ironic humor in the image of the same demographic of Native American headdress-appropriating Coachella-ites shelling out thousands to inadvertently spend the weekend as festival refugees. I imagine the poor saps who paid thousands to munch on stale bread in a tent find it less amusing.
Plans for a much smoother Fyre Festival 2018 have already been laid—apparently this time it will be held on U.S. soil, which should eliminate at least some of the logistical concerns. Color me skeptical, but only time will tell if next year will herald yet another beachside disaster.