I don’t know if you remember the fuckfest that was Fyre, but for some reason it caught my attention at the time, and Matt and I killed a lot of time at “work” gossiping about it. And the dirt was legendary.
Fyre was meant to be a music festival, the first of its kind, a high-end music festival on a private island in the Bahamas. The tickets were outlandishly priced in the thousands upon thousands of dollars, and they got you not just access to a concert, but luxury accommodations, fine dining, and the ability to cavort with bikini-clad super models. The festival was the brainchild of Fyre’s young, maverick CEO Billy McFarland. He had partnered with Ja-Rule to form a company that would make it easier to book musical acts, and what better way to brand a new company than to throw the world’s most IG-worthy, FOMO festival? They went after the young and stupid rich kids through Instagram’s influencers, and they sold out in days thanks to a single promotional video that featured the likes of Bella Hadid and Chanel Iman romping around on white sand beaches and yachts with just enough scraps of swim suit to keep things legal.
But other than knowing how to package things through the heavily filtered lenses of super models, McFarland’s secret was that he’d never been successful at anything before. And he was using finds collected for Fyre to pay off the debts of his last business venture. With just a month before the festival was to begin, not a single shred of work had been done on it. And remember we’re talking a Bahamian island that has no infrastructure or even electricity and plumbing. With the clock ticking, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened shows McFarland’s despotic tendencies, firing anyone who voiced concerns, and insulating himself with anyone foolish enough to believe in his pipe dream.
Of course it all falls apart in the end. Or rather, it had failed to come together since the beginning. They erected a few hurricane-issued FEMA tents as the “luxury” digs, enough for a only small fraction of attendees, and that’s if they weren’t rain-soaked and slicked with mudslide, which of course they were. There wasn’t enough food. There weren’t enough toilets. And then there wasn’t any music.
I remember seeing the statement when Blink 182 pulled out, just the day before the festival was meant to begin. They didn’t have faith that the festival could provide them with the necessities for their show. Understatement of the year. They were failing to provide the necessities of life. But they let hundreds of kids arrive anyway, and they were stranded without food or water.
For the rest of us watching from home, it was all kinds of fun to watch their increasingly desperate tweets about the crap food and the chaos. Keep in mind these were the painfully rich, spoiled beyond belief kids, a bunch of entitled millennials with such unfettered access to mommy and daddy’s accounts that they could wantonly spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a weekend they knew little about. The best thing about it was that it was okay for the rest of us to have absolutely no sympathy for them. This was likely the worst thing that had ever happened to them, and they’re clearly still dining out on the story 2 years later.
Nor do you need any sympathy for McFarland, wanted on charges of fraud. Of course, McFarland hasn’t learned a lesson, the extent of which is revealed in the Netflix original documentary (Hulu has its own doc on the subject, but it’s more montage-driven than interview-driven, so a little less informative). But this documentary has taught me where to expend any welled-up sympathy that I may be hoarding: on the poor Bahamians who worked tirelessly to build a festival from the ground-up and never saw a penny. The scam artist known as McFarland has of course left unpaid bills all over the place, but the only ones you’ll care to see paid are the local Bahamian ones, innocent people taken down by a stupid white boy from New Jersey with an inflated ego and a golden touch. But it takes a village of idiots to go along with it and make it happen. McFarland didn’t act alone.