I haven’t written anything substantial in a while – this ol’ page has been defunct for years now – but considering I was an actual attendee at the now-infamous Fyre Festival … well, sometimes it’s not up to you.
Here is my personal account of what was billed as the “Cultural Experience of the Decade.”
* * * * *
– My girlfriend and I decided to attend Fyre Festival back in December. At the time, it wasn’t very clear what the event was; there was no confirmed artists nor much information about the event itself. It was basically a slick promotional video featuring a few models on some jet skis at the time.
You might be wondering, “Why would you agree to spend thousands of dollars on something that wasn’t even a fully formed idea?” – or, if you know me well, you are not wondering that.
– First, a few facts: we did not pay $10k or whatever other crazy numbers you’re seeing in the media. Our combined package (referred to as “The Nest Package” – presumably because it was about as luxurious as an actual bird’s nest) was $2700 and was supposed to include: round trip airfare from Miami to the Bahamas; food for the entire weekend; lodging for the entire weekend; 1 gourmet cheese sandwich; and the tickets themselves.
Considering Coachella costs $450 for a GA ticket with no extras, I thought this was a bargain. In my eyes, the absolute worst case scenario was a festival with a shitty lineup that would devolve into an island vacation getaway for $1350/person. The floor, in my eyes, was high.
– In the months leading up to the festival, artists were periodically announced. I can’t say that I was praying for Blink-182, but could I see a scenario where my pupils were dilated and I was belting out out “ALL THE, SMALL THINGS!” while my horrified girlfriend looked on? Yes.
– It’s important to note, again, that this was supposed to be a music festival. I keep reading in the media about how this was a bunch of rich kids trying to meet Instamodels – or, as they are being called, “influencers” (I can’t emphasize enough how much it hurts to type/read/hear that word at this point).
First of all, I elected to pay via monthly payment plan, so we can cross off “rich”.
The influencers and models and whatnot? Again, all I can tell you is that this was supposed to be a small music festival on a Caribbean island, which to me sounded cool. Anyone who went to Coachella this year can tell you that the picture of 100,000 people in the crowd for Kendrick might look sweet, but in reality, it sucks for 80% of the people there.
This was supposed to be intimate. Quavo might hit on your girlfriend right in front of you. You wouldn’t pay $2500 for that?
Fine, it was always a dumb idea. Moving on.
– My girlfriend and I fly to Miami the Wednesday before the festival. Our flight to the island is 10:00am Thursday, and we are scheduled to stay on the island until Monday night, the longest possible stay. We high-five each other after hearing this good fortune.
– The morning of the festival, while at the airport, we receive an email with a suggested packing list. Thanks, guys! The list mentions not to bring any valuables. “It’s about unplugging,” they say. Oh yes – we’re going to unplug, alright.
This was the continuation of a worrisome trend with the Fyre correspondence. Early on, the replies to emails were pretty quick – about a day or so. Towards the end, it was radio silence for about a month. At one point they set up a phone number for questions; it was quickly outfitted with a voicemail that began, “Nobody is monitoring this voicemail.”
Am I feeling dumber the more I write about this? Yes. Yes I am.
– The heist that was Fyre came in two stages: the ticket itself, which was (for us) $2700, and then the FyreBand, which was a wristband with a magnetic strip that allowed it to function as a sort of debit card on the island.
The festival was supposed to be “cashless” – we were told there would be no ATMs, and no vendors would be accepting cash, except for the local fisherman selling fake molly. The Fyre team pushed everyone to deposit money onto their FyreBand before the festival – it would be possible to make deposits on the island, they said, but there would be “long lines”. They also hilariously suggested a budget of “$300-$500 per day,” despite all food being included in the ticket price.
We suggest budgeting about one car payment per day on JUST alcohol – somewhere between a Mazda and a BMW, depending on how much of an idiot you are.
The push to spend more money was a near-constant during the lead-up to the festival. In another comical sequence, they emailed everyone early on offering a chance to pay for bottle service and cabanas ahead of time. Here’s the email I was sent when I inquired about pricing:
- 1 private cabana
- catered lunch
- 1 premium bottle of liquor
- 4 fresh coconuts
- 8 waters
Normally I’d scoff at a $5,000 price tag for one bottle of liquor, but since you’re throwing in 4 fresh coconuts, do you take Amex?
– I checked their website a month later, and the price for the same 4-person cabana had dropped to a minimum $1500 spend on liquor. Only at the Fyre Festival do the early-movers get a special 233% price increase.
– At the gate, a buddy of mine pointed out a silly looking fellow with a perfectly manicured 4 o’clock shadow and expensive looking sunglasses. He then showed me the guy’s Instagram: 8 million followers. My first look at an “influencer”! I found myself intensely focused on NOT looking at him for the next 30 minutes, as I couldn’t bear the thought of him thinking I cared or knew who he was.
– Once we board the plane, my girlfriend and I are seated next to some chick who appears distressed at her seat. A slightly older guy in his 30’s comes back and ushers her up to the first class; he sits next to us instead.
“Influencer,” he says, nodding towards her. I begin to fantasize about the plane crashing.
– He introduces himself and lets me know that he works for the festival, and pretty high up. His brother is one of the main guys, good friends with co-founder Billy McFarland.
What follows is one of the most bizarre parts of the whole story: for the rest of the hour-long plane ride, this supposedly high-up exec seems completely unaware of the chaos that is about to unfold. The first thing I asked him was, “What’s one thing we should know going in?”
His answer wasn’t anything useful like “kill or be killed”, or “get to the sandwich line early” – it was, “Make sure not to miss the yacht parties!”
– He did let on that there had been some worrisome feedback (“You know the lodgings are… tents, right?” he said at one point, ominously) but he mostly seemed 100% confident the festival would be a huge success. The conversation even veered into the followup festivals.
“You can start with Fyre and then we can do Earth, Wind … there’s a lot of ways we could play off of this.” It was like I was there for 15 minutes of the now-infamous Pitch Deck.
– As we landed, he gave me his cell phone and told me to shoot him a text if we needed anything on the island. “You guys have benefited from the bump,” he jokingly said, referring to his being bumped from First Class.
Text me if you need anything at all – like help getting into the VIP section, or a shank to protect yourself!
– We idled in line at the tiny Exumas airport, which is basically a small two-bedroom ranch house. Some people started to activate their cell phones, and we got word from those who had arrived on the first plane that they were not being allowed to see the lodging yet. They had thrown the entire first plane onto school buses and drove them around in circles for a while before pulling up to a beachside bar and telling everyone to drink up, on the house.
We were soon taken there, and for a moment, I thought, “this might actually be fun.”
The bar was right on the beach – a beautiful beach, white sand and that famous turquoise Bahamian water. There were a couple hundred people already there, drinking, hanging out on the beach, lounging on the dock (here’s Girlfriend and I loving life at this point). We were told that it was open bar – totally free – and that once the site was ready for us, we’d all be heading over.
In hindsight, I realize this was just a stall tactic. I’m not sure how they thought this was a good idea, but because the tents and the lodgings weren’t ready, they decided, “Let’s just toss everybody on the beach, open up the bar, and figure it out over the next four hours!”
Everyone proceeded to (predictably) get blissfully hammered (proof here). This was in many ways the highlight of the trip; locals pulled up with nice boats and started ferrying groups of us a couple hundred yards out to another island, the famous Pig Beach from The Bachelor.
– The pigs were cool, I guess. Splashing around on a random island, clueless and searching for food, while the rest of the world pointed and laughed at them. Turns out we have a lot in common.
– After returning to the beach, we drank on until sunset. There was some basic food handed out – trays of rice, plantains, some chicken.
– In what was a truly prescient moment, this older white guy (maybe 50) stands up on a stool in the middle of the bar and hollers for everyone’s attention. He then starts a rambling speech about how he’s worked in the music industry for years, and how this setup process has had all sorts of unique challenges. People are sort of listening. Then, in a thundering voice, he ends with:
“But when THIS IS OVER – you will be able to tell everyone that YOU WERE THERE, at the VERY FIRST FYRE FESTIVAL!”
(Drunken golf clap from the crowd)
You literally cannot make this shit up.
– Eventually people started lining up for rides to the site, and, finally, rickety old school buses started to arrive. What was already a bad situation – a couple thousand people arriving to an island with unfinished accommodations and a total lack of resources – was now exponentially worse, as most of those people were drunk and the sun was fading away fast.
Welcome … to the 74th annual HUNNNNNNNNNGER GAMES!!!!
– As our bus pulled up to the site, there was a strange tug-of-war going on between everyone’s optimism, the reality of the situation, and the lack of information. I think I may have even said, “Oh, cool!” when I first saw the tents. Remember – this was supposed to be an island getaway. I signed up for tiki torches and Matoma on the beach, not the Four Seasons. It was also hard to see; by the time we arrived, sunset had passed and it was almost completely dark.
But, slowly, reality hit.
Stepping off the bus, we realized most of the site was not on some pristine beach, but rather on what resembled a big construction site. The ground beneath our feet wasn’t fine white sand – it was gravel, much of it large rocks. There was almost immediate confusion on where to go or what to do; nobody could seem to find anyone who worked there. My girlfriend and I were carrying our luggage with us, walking around and trying to figure out what to do next, until a guy who identified himself as a Fyre employee hollered out to a group of people to follow him.
“If you want to get a tent, follow me!”
He was just a shlubby dude in a t-shirt – not exactly the savior type – but we really had no other option, so about a dozen of us followed this random guy around the site, passing a bunch of already-claimed tent villages. Eventually we arrived at a cluster of tents on the north side of the site, and the guy turned around.
“Everyone wait right here, I’m going to go find out which tents are open.”
He walked off into the darkness and a few people followed; my girlfriend looked at me and I shrugged.
– After about 15 minutes standing there in the dark with our dicks in our hands, it became clear he wasn’t coming back. Only four of us remained – me, my GF, and two random guys. One of the dudes asked the other (wearing cargo shorts and no shirt) if he worked there; this second guy really wasn’t happy with that question and got right in his face.
“Ask me again if I work here, motherf*****,” he said, nose to nose with him. Some girl ran out from the darkness and grabbed him, screaming at them to stop.
Tensions flaring; everybody hungry and on edge; no lodging and no employees anywhere to be found. The gentleman from the plane texts me and asks how we are doing. Here’s a screenshot.
Am I gonna die tonight? lol
– My girl, bless her, told me to watch the luggage while she did a quick scan of the tents to see if one might be empty. I had lost my shoes at the first beach party and the rocks hurt my feet, so she went off into the darkness rather than me. She’s been making fun of me for this for days already, so keep your jokes to yourself. Chivalry is dead, blah blah blah, ha ha ha.
– Somehow, she found the LAST tent in the village, all the way at the back, empty, and we snagged it. By now you’ve probably seen and heard about the tents, but it had two twin beds and one table-type thing, and the floor was covered by some sort of makeshift carpet, which was soaked by the rain that had come through the day before.
Note on the rain: I keep reading in media and public comments from McFarland / Ja Rule that the storm the day before was the main issue. Trust me: this would have been a disaster, rain or shine. There was quite literally no food, and the food we got was dogshit. The site itself was covered in rubble, fencing, and bulldozers. Did the rain make a bad situation worse? Absolutely. But a scapegoat it is not.
– We tossed our stuff in the tent, gathered ourselves, and ventured back out to find food. At this point, we’re confused, but haven’t totally given up; it could just be a terrible start, for all we know. Looking back, our optimism is equal parts endearing and funny.
This seems like a good point to mention that we had it better than most. Some of my friends didn’t find a tent with a bed until 2 or 3 in the morning, and a lot of people never got a tent – they were part of that unfortunate group that tried to hit the eject button and go back to the airport the same night. They ended up stranded there overnight, chained in like animals, and some of them passed out before the help came.
I can picture Fyre exec bros chuckling in blue blazers while Brett from Long Island slowly loses consciousness on the floor.
Shoulda paid $5k for the coconuts, pal!
– Girlfriend and I start wandering around, trying to get our bearings and starting to look for food. By now, the Lord of the Flies feel is in complete effect. Shadows are darting around looking for tents; some people are crying, and there’s crowds forming by the luggage piles and the main “Blue House” (which was purported to be the staff lodging). Everyone is lining up to write their names on a legal pad with a pen. I ask a random girl what the list is for and she shrugs.
We hear a rumor that there’s food on the far end of the site and walk off to find it.
– Once there, we get in a nice long line queued up near what appears to be a makeshift cafeteria. The “Bahamian cuisine” (as the festival organizers had called it) did not look appetizing – basically white bread sandwiches with a few leaves on the side. Then, all the way at the front of the line, one dude turns around with an incredulous look on his face and laughs. He yells out to the rest of us in line:
“They’re out of meat – it’s just cheese sandwiches!”
Ah, yes, the famous cheese sandwiches. I ate one, folks, and I can report that they were indeed a thing. They probably kept half the people on the island fed for the night. I’d estimate 20% of people got any meat at all on their traditional Bahamian Wonderbread.
It was the storm – it washed away all the cuisine!
Make sure you get to the yacht parties!
– At this point the crowd started to get pretty reckless. I was never afraid, per se, but I wouldn’t have blamed anyone for being scared. People were pissed; people were hungry; people were drunk. Now, being from New Jersey, this was a normal mix to me, but if I was a 5’2 influencer* from Beverly Hills, I would have been pretty frightened.
*They are all really short. You know what they say: never meet your heroes.
The itinerary had called for “Traditional Bahamian Music” to be played from the stage all evening Thursday, before all the rappers started on Friday. I looked over and saw one lonely Caribbean dude singing, dwarfed by the large stage they had constructed for the event and the fancy lighting systems. Purple spotlights were whirling all around him. It looked like an expensive bar mitzvah. He’s just cooing his Carnival Cruise flow, even though the entire dance floor was empty and not a single person was listening. He reminded me of the band on the Titanic, playing defiantly as the ship sank around him.
– The white material of our Katrina Tent didn’t shield much of the sunlight, which was fine; once I got my bearings, I wanted to get out there and see what the latest was.
Walking outside was a bit surreal; everything was eerily quiet. It was around 7:30am and most people were still asleep. A tumbleweed or two might have blown by; the occasional ravenous influencer scurried out of sight and back into a porta-potty. It very much felt like a zombie apocalypse.
– GF and I both found open showers and washed up. They were sort of trailer-type structures with about eight showers strung together in a 4×2 formation inside them. I was brushing my teeth after showering, standing in a towel, when a girl opened the door and appeared startled.
“Is this a…guys, or girls, or…?”
I shrugged back at her, toothbrush in mouth. She realized the pointlessness of her question almost immediately. We all gave up on rules here a long time ago, honey.
– After getting dressed, GF and I decided to walk over to the food area and see what we could scrounge up. I’m a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to horrendous DIY meals – left to my own devices, I’ll end up making some bizarre pregnant-woman-combinations like canned tuna, plain yogurt, and Sriracha – so part of me was excited to see what they’d have to offer after the cheese sandwiches.
– I was dissapointed to see they had a relatively normal spread of bagels and waffles, along with a big case of yogurt packages. Later on, I saw some people walking around with hard boiled eggs, and there was even a rumor that some people got home fries. It really had a disaster relief feel; I imagined the box of yogurts being donated by the richest guy in the Bahamas after he heard about our plight.
– Wandering over to the Blue House, it became apparent at this point that the festival was off. They opened up one of the bars by the beach and instructed the bartenders to free pour like the end of the world was coming. Huge magnum bottles of Whispering Angel rosé and handles of Casamigos tequila were queued up. A few guys commandeered a golf cart and strapped a speaker system to the front of it, driving around and playing music. A group of around a hundred people gathered on la playa – a nice, lagoon-style area – and started drinking again. The whole scene was a mixture of Mad Max and The Beach.
– Word came that everyone was being flown off the island that day, and NOT to go to the airport.
“The airport is the worst place you could be right now,” one shirtless guy explained to a throng of people dying for information. “You’ll only be stuck there waiting. You’re in the Bahamas, man. Get a drink and hang out on the beach.”
– We did that for a few hours, lounging in the sun and drinking rosé. This was a second high point of the debacle, and I can actually say I greatly enjoyed these few hours. Bagels, beach, and booze: for but a moment in time, we had it all.
– Eventually, we decided it was time to go – this strange odyssey had gone on long enough. We packed up our belongings, hitched a ride on a random bus headed to the airport, and left.
– The bus almost pittered out and started rolling backwards while climbing a hill at one point en route to the airport; the driver did some crazy maneuvers with the stick and floored it, barely averting disaster. The crowd behind him roars with approval.
– We slithered our way through the crowd at the airport and eventually got to a desk, where they had us fill out a piece of paper and put us on a flight. Some older white guy with a handlebar moustache arrived and almost immediately things started humming; he was some sort of airline “fixer”, the guy you send to fix the shit storm. Some flustered chicks looking for somewhere to vent started yelling in his face. He took it all in stride.
“I’m used to people yelling at me,” he said with a big smile. They don’t make ’em like that cowboy anymore. A real man’s man.
– Our flight was called about an hour later, and off we went to Miami. From what I heard, a lot of people ended up turning it into a Miami weekend; some people had enough, threw in the towel, and just went home. Some bachelorette and bachelor parties were ruined, plenty of people still didn’t have any luggage, and a few others didn’t get off the island until later that night.
Since then, the Fyre people have gone on a bit of a disaster PR tour, offering tickets to next year’s event instead of refunds (ROFLCOPTERS!) and uniformly denying any responsibility for the whole fiasco. The Bahamas have been thoroughly embarrassed by the whole thing, even going as far as to issue a hilarious Trump-style statement claiming their infrastructure is “second to none“.
There hasn’t been any updates in a few days. Most people have resorted to calling their banks and disputing the charges. The first dude I spoke to at Chase immediately dropped his Customer Service Voice and started cracking up when I told him why I was calling.
Him: “Aw, man, you was there?!” (extended loud laughter)
Me: (Deep sigh) “Yep, yeah, I was there.”
Him: (continued laughter)
“Man, I’m sorry. I been reading about that all weekend, man. I’m sorry. That was crazy though.”
Me: “Yes, sir. Yes it was.”