Fyre music festival falls apart and leaves hundreds stranded on an island

Festival crowd (Photo: John Price, Unsplash)
Festival crowd (Photo: John Price, Unsplash)

Nassau - A new music festival in The Bahamas that was advertised as the ultimate in luxury imploded Friday just as it was to begin, leaving hundreds of party-goers displaced and angry.

With tickets costing up to $12,000 and VIP packages that rose to $250,000, the Fyre Festival offered a weekend on a private island being entertained by top names in music while staying in luxurious villas where guests would be wined and dined.

But visitors said they were forced to deal with subpar accommodation that included sleeping in "disaster relief tents" and being fed cheese sandwiches rather than gourmet cuisine.

The festival had promoted itself on Instagram with sensual images of famous models lying on the sand. But after finding out that the promised "cultural moment created from a blend of music, art and food" was not to be, some visitors also turned to social media to vent fury.

"This has been one of the most ridiculous things I have ever experienced and if you know me, that is saying a whole lot," Twitter user DylanACOP wrote.

"It is complete and total chaos. Everyone is running around frantically looking for answers and none of the staff can help. Even they are in the dark," he tweeted.

See those tweets here:

Another Twitter user, William N. Finley IV, said he saw a man pass out in the airport "because it's so hot since they locked us in."

See that tweet here:

The festival, which had been due to take place over two weekends, abruptly announced in an online statement Friday that it was being "postponed" with no new date.

"Due to circumstances out of our control, the physical infrastructure was not in place on time and we are unable to fulfill on that vision safely and enjoyably for our guests," it said.

The festival said it was offering charter flights back to Miami to festival-goers, whose packages included transportation.

"We ask for everyone's patience and cooperation during this difficult time as we work as quickly and safely as we can to remedy this unforeseeable situation," the statement said.

Guests said they were asked to sign slips of paper to ask for refunds.

Apology from government
Some visitors blamed the government of The Bahamas, a country of more than 700 islands and cays where tourism is the largest industry.

The event on the private island of Exuma was organized by rapper Ja Rule and tech entrepreneur Billy McFarland who together launched Fyre Media in 2015.

The tourism ministry, which had assisted with advertising, said it did not organize the Fyre Festival and that it was "extremely disappointed."

"We offer a heartfelt apology to all who traveled to our country for this event," it said in a statement.

"Hundreds of visitors to Exuma were met with total disorganization and chaos," it added, saying that ministry representative were helping visitors return home.

Ja Rule told the local newspaper The Tribune that he and McFarland had pumped $20 million into the event, assuring that it was not a scam. "Heartbroken is an understatement," he wrote to the paper via WhatsApp.

"God knows my heart and intentions were in the right place. Now I just want everyone to get home safe and get refunded."

Seizing on festival boom

A press release in December promised a "once-in-a-lifetime experience." "Think the hottest artists, the most beautiful water in the world, yachts, jet skis, and more than $1 million of real treasure and jewels hidden on the island," it said.

The chaos had started to become apparent Thursday, when one of the headlining acts, rockers Blink-182, said it was not coming. "We're not confident that we would have what we need to give you the quality of performances we always give our fans," the band wrote. Other acts in the lineup were electronic favorites Major Lazer and rising hip-hop acts Migos and Desiigner.

New music festivals have been sprouting up at a fast pace in the United States, increasingly becoming a rite of passage for young people of sufficient means.

McFarland also faced criticism over the social networking startup Magnises, which charges users a $250 annual fee for discounted access to exclusive events.

The news site Tech Insider reported in February that the startup was not delivering the promised perks, with several members reporting unwanted charges on their credit cards.