Only three days ago, we wrote on this very site about festivals. They can be life-changing experiences, rites of passage from the gangly mess of adolescence into the slightly more refined mess of adulthood. Whether encountering a druid at Glastonbury’s stone circle or flying a beer and MDMA jet to nirvana huddled between friends at some late-night Primavera set, the ways we celebrate music and not giving a shit about what time it is over the summer has the power to form parts of our identities.
Then again, festivals can also be absolute trash. I have been known—and believe me, I’m not proud of this—to describe a certain camping festival as not too far off from the feeling of a refugee camp with live music. Sometimes, the events billed as the parties of a lifetime leave you trapped in a space where no electricity, limited running water and housing made out of nylon placed directly on the ground doesn’t feel worth paying more than $100 for.
Well, friends, if you tend to side with the latter opinion of festivals (and tbh even if you don’t) then you’ll probably be delighted to hear about Fyre Festival. It was pegged as a luxurious event held over two weekends in the Bahamas, and organized by Ja Rule’s Fyre Media company. But not even the DSLR-shot videos of Bella Hadid and other model friends frolicking on the beach, or a lineup boasting names like blink-182, Skepta, Major Lazer, Lil Yachty, Rae Sremmurd and Disclosure (a DJ set, let’s be clear) were enough to make the festival kick off according to plan.
Its first weekend started today (Friday, April 28). As part of the experience, punters who’d paid anywhere from about $1,000 to $12,000 a head were flown from Miami to Great Exuma, gearing up for their beautifully orchestrated VIP experience, with its meal options, “rustic, tented spaces” and “sunset views”. Instead, they got this:
Now, I don’t know about you, but if I’d just dropped five months’ rent minimum on literally three days of trying to see Skepta’s head onstage for a few mins without losing all my friends and instead was marooned on a beach in a flimsy-looking “geodesic dome built out of incredibly sturdy, yet lightweight material” with a takeaway box as part of the meal plan I’d paid actual cash for, I would be pissed. And people are, with “Fyre Festival” now becoming one of the most worthwhile Google searches you could type in if you need a quick laugh on this otherwise relatively average Friday.
Even if not staying in one of the advertised villas, you’d still be looking at a £772 price tag for the weekend—excluding flights—to sleep in a tent. At the time of writing, the festival hadn’t updated its site quite yet, so it still promises that “you’ll be flown roundtrip on a custom, VIP configured Boeing 737 aircraft between Miami International Airport and Exuma International Airport on Great Exuma”. What actually seems to be happening, though, is flights being turned back at Miami International Airport, with those on the island already staying in tents reportedly being offered cheese slices on dry, untoasted bread, and blink-182 pulling a quick ‘Homer backing into the bushes’ by cancelling their appearance already. Fair enough, lads.
As for Fyre Festival? “Things got off to an unexpected start at day one”, they’ve written, in a statement on Instagram (where they’ve turned the comments off—LOL). “Thank you for bearing with us as we work through the growing pains that every first year event experiences. Revised itinerary information will be shared soon for the remainder of this weekend and weekend two.” We’ll see what happens here, but so far there’s little known about what’s caused this disastrous start to the event. William Finley IV, who live-tweeted the experience of arriving, being offered food in an improvised tent, and then waiting hours to return to Miami, allegedly picked up an organizer’s notebook. Maybe that holds the secret of what’s happened here, but in the meantime we eagerly await the follow-up statement from Fyre.
On a serious note though, who actually drops that amount of money on a three-day festival, even with the option to stay in a villa and essentially have a flock of doves beak-deliver champagne to your veranda each morning before shepherding you to the pool party populated exclusively by friends of the Hadid sisters? This sort of mess is like the final form of the beast the VIP experience has become at festivals, hawking add-ons at such high prices that you may as well just spend that money on a proper holiday. At least that would be one where you don’t have to keep flashing a wristband at someone or trying to finesse your way backstage.
If you want to have an Insta-ready time in the Bahamas that badly, just pay a hotel that you know will treat you right. If you care about music and want to see it live, go to shows and get sweaty with everyone else or accept that festivals are meant to be pretty filthy times when you don’t have to care about how good your lighting is for a posed group shot. If you don’t really care about music but want to make your social media followers “wish they were here!!” then yeah, Fyre probably is the place for you. But when the curtain’s pulled back and that perfect experience falls apart, as it has here, you have to wonder what’s left that’s worth paying for. Meanwhile, pray 4 anyone you know who thinks they are on their way to the weekend of a lifetime.
Update: According to the Fyre Festival Twitter account, the whole event has been postponed:
(Photo by William N Finley IV via Twitter)
You can find Tshepo on Twitter.