High-paying attendees at the luxury Fyre Festival in the Bahamas got a serious reality check when they arrived to find they’d forked out thousands of dollars for lunch boxes and disaster relief tents.
The vision of rapper Ja Rule and entrepreneur Billy McFarland, the inaugural weekend event promised a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience and delivered the exact opposite.
Famous, glamorous and cashed-up festival goers were thrown into chaos after the event on a remote island in the Exuma district of the Bahamas was cancelled last minute.
Some guests were left up to $US12,000 out of pocket – the cost of a top-tier ticket to the event, which was set to take place across two weekends.
Instead of dancing the nights away to a line-up boasting performances from Blink-182, Disclosure and Major Lazer, guests arrived to a half-baked festival that was called off on the first day.
Social media was abuzz as attendees compared the festival’s glamorous promotional videos – featuring models Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski – to the dismal truth of delayed flights, portable toilets and meals of sliced bread with processed cheese and a sprinkling of salad.
— Tr3vor (@trev4president) April 28, 2017
Festival organiser and rapper Ja Rule told his Twitter followers he was “heartbroken at this moment” and his immediate concern was getting everyone on the island safe.
He said the festival cancellation was not his fault, but was taking responsibility and was “deeply sorry” to everyone inconvenienced by the 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,” he said.
Writing for The Cut, Fyre Festival talent producer Chloe Gordon said she always knew the event was going to be a “complete disaster”.
She said when she arrived to the island of Great Exuma six weeks ago to start planning, she found festival vendors weren’t in place, a stage hadn’t been rented and no transportation had been arranged.
“Frankly, we were standing on an empty gravel pit and no one had any idea how we were going to build a festival village from scratch,” she wrote.
“The writing was on the wall. I saw it firsthand six weeks ago.”
— Alex Sanchez (@AXELSCYTHE) April 28, 2017
Festivalgoer William Finley told Billboard the villas were nothing more than “disaster relief tents” with a mattress on a bed frame.
“They’re not that uncomfortable, but the tents are so poorly made that they’d blow over in a second if there was any kind of rain,” he said.
Other attendees complained of a lack of security, no running water and no showers.
Festival organisers cited “circumstances out of our control” for the inability to prepare the “physical infrastructure” for the event in the largely under-developed Exumas.
But the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism blamed organisers and expressed their disappointment in a statement.
“We offered advice and assisted with communications with other government agencies,” it said.
“The event organisers assured us that all measures were taken to ensure a safe and successful event but clearly they did not have the capacity to execute an event of this scale.”