A “Coachella for Rich Millennials” Turns into a Full-Blown, Unmitigated Disaster. Now There’s a $100 MILLION Lawsuit!

The Fyre Festival was supposed to be the Coachella for the rich and beautiful. Set on the island of Exuma in the Bahamas, ticket pages sold for more than $100,000 USD (NOT a typo) and was promoted with Instagram celebrities.

Co-organized by Ja Rule, the festival was supposed to be a “cultural moment created from a blend of music, art and food.” A-listers were lured by tickets included airfare from Miami, accommodations in a “geodesic dome” (WTF?) plus yoga, kayaking and other activities. They promised performances from blink-182, Major Lazer, Skepta and Disclosure. Fantastic, right?

Well, no. The whole thing has turned out to be a complete, total and utter disaster. On Thursday, blink-182 bailed, offering this uncharacteristically sober tweet.

As guests arrived, the problems and complaints piled up. Guests were not impressed with the food, the accommodations (or lack thereof) and a total lack of organization. The people behind the festival were so overwhelmed that they just threw in the towel.

Here’s what they were promised.

Here’s what they got.

 

There was no food, not enough water and woeful tents instead of the promised luxury digs. Mattresses were stacked willy-nilly, luggage thrown from trucks and general chaos.  Last I heard, rescue flights from the mainland have been dispatched to evacuate stranded festival-goers.

Organizers are now promising all kinds of compensation, including refunds.

A statement was released to Billboard:

Billy McFarland and Ja Rule started a partnership over a mutual interest in technology, the ocean, and rap music. This unique combination of interests led them to the idea that, through their combined passions, they could create a new type of music festival and experience on a remote island.

They simply weren’t ready for what happened next, or how big this thing would get. They started by making a website and launching a viral campaign. Ja helped book talent, and they had hundreds of local Bahamians join in the effort. Suddenly, they found themselves transforming a small island and trying to build a festival. Thousands of people wanted to come. They were excited, but then the roadblocks started popping up.

As amazing as the islands are, the infrastructure for a festival of this magnitude needed to be built from the ground up. So, we decided to literally attempt to build a city. We set up water and waste management, brought an ambulance from New York, and chartered 737 planes to shuttle our guests via 12 flights a day from Miami. We thought we were ready, but then everyone arrived.

The team was overwhelmed. The airport was jam packed. The buses couldn’t handle the load. And the wind from rough weather took down half of the tents on the morning our guests were scheduled to arrive. This is an unacceptable guest experience and the Fyre team takes full responsibility for the issues that occurred.

Read the whole statement here.

Word today (Monday) is that all attendees are “safe” and are being offered refunds.

 

Of course, there’s already a class action suit, allegedly citing fraud, fraud-nelgigent misrepresentation, breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. It comes with a demand for a jury trial. I quote:

1. Defendants promoted their “Fyre Festival” as a posh, island-based music festival featuring “first-class culinary experiences and a luxury atmosphere.” Instead, festival-goers were lured into what various media outlets have since labeled a “complete disaster,” “mass chaos,” and a “post-apocalyptic nightmare.”

2. The festival’s lack of adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care created a dangerous and panicked situation among attendees—suddenly finding themselves stranded on a remote island without basic provisions—that was closer to “The Hunger Games” or “Lord of the Flies” than Coachella. Festival-goers survived on bare rations, little more than bread and a slice of cheese, and tried to escape the elements in the only shelter provided by Defendants: small clusters of “FEMA tents,” exposed on a sand bar, that were soaked and battered by wind and rain.

3. Attendees’ efforts to escape the unfolding disaster were hamstrung by their reliance upon Defendants for transportation, as well as by the fact that Defendants promoted the festival as a “cashless” event—Defendants instructed attendees to upload funds to a wristband for use at the festival rather than bringing any cash. As such, Attendees were unable to purchase basic transportation on local taxis or busses, which accept only cash. As a result of Defendants’ roadblocks to escape, at least one attendee suffered a medical emergency and lost consciousness after being locked inside a nearby building with other concert-goers waiting to be airlifted from the island.

4. Outrage spread quickly on social media and throughout traditional news outlets, with the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Vanity Fair, and others describing the dangerous events unfolding. Social media users even generated the hashtag “#fyrefraud” to share their harrowing experiences while in Defendants’ care.

Let me give you some other highlights from the suit:

35. Unfortunately, festival-goers were unable to escape the unfolding disaster because of their reliance upon Defendants for transportation, and because Defendants promoted the festival as a “cashless” event—Defendants instructed attendees to upload funds to a wristband for use at the festival rather than bringing any cash. As such, Attendees were unable to purchase basic transportation on local taxis or busses, which accept only cash. As a result of Defendants’ roadblocks to escape, at least one attendee suffered a medical emergency and lost consciousness after being locked inside a nearby building with other concert-goers waiting to be airlifted from the island:

36. Shockingly, Defendants had been aware for months that their festival was dangerously under-equipped and posed a serious danger to anyone in attendance. Individuals employed by Defendants have since acknowledged that no infrastructure for food service or accommodations was in place as recently as last month—the island was totally barren—and that the few contractors who had been retained by Defendants were refusing to work because they had not been paid. Various news outlets began describing these logistical problems and labeling the festival as a “scam” weeks ago.

37. More troublingly, Mr. McFarland and Mr. Atkins began personally reaching out to performers and celebrities in advance of the festival and warned them not to attend—acknowledging the fact that the festival was outrageously underequipped and potentially dangerous for anyone in attendance.

It goes on and on with the punchline being the seeking of $100,000,000 in damages. That’s right: ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS. (Thanks to my undercover operative for passing along the details of the suit.)

The best part? Organizers say that none of this was a scam and they’re going to try again next year. Good luck with that.

More coverage here, here and here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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