South Florida

Luxury music fest collapses into chaos, leaves hundreds stranded in the Bahamas

Fyre Festival was supposed to be a luxury music festival in the Bahamas — with chartered planes, yachts, gourmet food and designer drinks.

In short, as William Finley tweeted, “the coolest trip ever.”

Instead, festival goers found their tickets (which set them back anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000 for the two weekend affair) bought them a garbage-strewn site with disassembled tents, an unfinished stage and dinner of bread and cheese in a Styrofoam container.

The promised “white glove service” delivery of luggage to a concierge desk within two hours of landing turned out to be bags chucked from the back of a shipping container 12 hours later.

The entire festival was postponed Friday morning, after the festival cited “unforeseen and extenuating circumstances.” Previously, organizers canceled all inbound charter flights. But even those left on the island had trouble getting home. Several attendees tweeted that they were locked inside the airport with no food, water or air conditioning. There were reports of travelers fainting from heat stroke.

The festival was meant to draw name recognition to rapper Ja Rule and his tech partner Billy McFarland’s new entertainment booking start up, Fyre Media, according to Vanity Fair. The inaugural festival was heavily promoted by elite Instagram influencers, DJs, professional surfers and a bevy of models.


Ja Rule defended himself on Twitter Friday afternoon against critics who called the festival a scam (or, more colorfully, a #dumpsterfyre).

“I don’t know how everything went so left,” he wrote. “But I’m working to make it right by making sure everyone is refunded... I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT... but I’m taking responsibility.”

Buzzy Seager, who is staying with his wife on a cruise ship docked nearby for the festival, said the surprise “welcome party” thrown for Thursday afternoon arrivals “was basically shoving everyone on a beach and plying them with free booze to distract them from the fact the stage and tents weren't built.”

The all-star lineup included Migos, Major Lazer, Lil Yachty and blink-182, who canceled their appearance via a Twitter statement, saying “we’re not confident we would have what we need to give you the quality performance we always give our fans.”

Attendees complained that emails, direct messages and comments begging for information have not been answered by festival organizers. Friday morning, festival “VVIPs” received an email officially canceling the event and listing nearby transportation, grocery and restaurant options.

“We understand, that communication to date has been poor, you have been in the dark, are confused, and there are little to no provisions at your home,” organizers wrote.

Bahamian officials were counting on the festival for a tourism boost, Vanity Fair reported, so they provided jet skis for rent, freed up the yacht marinas and tapped the University of Bahamas culinary division to prepare food.

Bahamian officials released a statement early Friday, stating the organization is “extremely disappointed in the way the events unfolded yesterday with the Fyre festival.”

While the official policy on the Fyre festival website is no refunds, one attendee posted a picture of guests writing their names on a piece of paper for a full refund.

The buzzy promotional video boasts the island was once owned by Pablo Escobar, and featured endless shots of bikini-clad models dancing and jumping off yachts.


Like all great stories, this one begins with a voyage

A post shared by FYRE FESTIVAL (@fyrefestival) on

The contrast between the situation on the ground and the one suggested by the video led one Twitter user to quip: “Expectation v. Reality for the biggest scamming festival in the 21st Century.”

Alex Harris: 305-376-5005, @harrisalexc