culture

A Timeline of the Hellscape That Was Fyre Festival

Fyre mobile
Netflix

Screenshot 2019 01 07 10.55.01
January 16, 2019

Like one of those when you order something online vs. when it arrives comparison tweets, Fyre Festival promised a luxury weekend for people who fail upward and delivered a Lord of the Flies remake set to a trap beat. The dream it sold: Two debauched, gin-soaked weekends in April and May 2017 spent head-banging to old Blink-182 hits on a gorgeous private island formerly owned by drug cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar. The reality: Cheese sandwiches in styrofoam boxes and hurricane relief tents. And not even enough of either of those.

 

The founder turned convicted felon, Billy McFarland, "planned" the entire thing in a matter of months. It was all cosigned by Ja Rule and underwritten by influencers and models. Let us refresh our memory by watching the promotional video to recall what could have been:

The festival was hastily put together over a series of months and dismantled in one single tweet.

On January 14, Hulu released a documentary called Fyre Fraud, which included McFarland's paid participation. Netflix is set to release its documentary about the festival, Fyre, on January 18th with footage provided by the small army of videographers hired on borrowed money to document the entire thing. It is an inside look at the festival's desperate attempts to dig itself out of its literal and metaphorical sandpit. 

 

As I watched the documentary screener, I texted my friend observations I made about the botched meet-up for Raya users. "ok lmao they literally sold more tickets than the island could physically hold people. so they had a plan to have a cruise ship docked off the island where they would ferry drunk people to at night to sleep. this is so funny already omg."I sent this text early on in the film as I screamed into a pillow.

 

In any regular documentary, that might have been a subject's rock bottom. But, my friends, it gets better. I texted: "one of the chief people emailed the founder and the other senior people the DAY before [the festival] saying you have to cancel at least 300 people because they had nowhere for them to stay and the reply he got just said 'at least they will see your smiling face and crazy yoga skillz!' after like a page long email. he doubled as the yoga instructor for the festival hahahaha.”

Once the founder and organizers realized they were too far gone, they had no choice but to watch it self-destruct and try to escape the ruins unscathed. One guy literally had to be smuggled off the Bahamian island because contractors were chasing him down for outstanding payments.

 

Let's backtrack. How did it get this hilariously bad? A condensed timeline for the curious:

 

2015: Fyre fest founder Billy McFarland meets Ja Rule and they fly to the island of Great Exuma because their plane runs out of fuel. There, they hatch a plan to promote their booking app, Fyre.

 

December 2016: A group of models, including Bella Hadid, Hailey Bieber and Emily Ratajkowski, is flown down to the island to film a festival advertisement in which they where they run through the waves in bikinis and ride Sea-Doos. McFarland gets a permit from the Bahamian government to use Norman's Cay as the site for the fest. The one caveat: McFarland cannot advertise it as Pablo Escobar's private island. (It was actually never owned by Escobar, but it was used as a base for Carlos Lehder's drug smuggling operation).

 

January 12, 2017: The advertisement is released, and 45 seconds into the spot a title card reads "Once owned by Pablo Escobar," which is false, and spurs the government to revoke his permit. So, they start shopping for a new island but continue promoting with footage of hot models splashing around on an island nowhere near the final site.

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Festival goers arrive on site to find their 'luxury villas' are actually just FEMA tents / Netflix

Two weeks out: To save money, Billy McFarland fires Starr Catering, which had a $6 million contract to provide food services for the entire festival. McFarland asks one of his senior organizers to find another company to provide food for 6,000 attendees with two weeks to go on a budget of $1 million. LOL.

 

Date unknown: Arguably the best story in a documentary chock-full of disaster stories arrives about halfway through the film's run time. "We had four 18-wheeler trucks filled with Evian water," event producer Andy King reveals to the filmmakers. King is out of town when the water arrived, and customs is holding it hostage. Keep in mind they shipped in all the water because there wasn't any potable water-or any infrastructure-at their chosen site. "Customs had said to Billy and the gang, 'You need to pay us $175,000 in cash today if you want us to release the water."

 

McFarland calls King, whom he deemed their "gay leader," and asks if he would "suck dick to fix this water problem." He is asked to take one for the team in order to save the festival. King drives home, showers, drinks some mouth wash and drives across the island "fully prepared to suck his dick." Luckily, he didn't have to and customs released the water under the pretext that they will be paid first once they received money.

 

April 27: The day before the festival is scheduled to start, Blink-182 pulls out, explaining on Twitter that "we wouldn’t have what we need to give you the quality of performances we always give fans."

 

To recap: The headline act is out. People who purchased tickets are stuck on cramped, commercial flights hurtling toward what they don't yet know will be a cheese sandwich-catered catastrophe. The FEMA tents they'll be put up in are soaking wet due to rain and there are not enough places to house all of the confirmed attendees.

 

April 28: When guests arrive, according to Fyre, they were rerouted to a local restaurant. In one of the most heartbreaking moments of the documentary, MaryAnn Rolle—the owner of a local Great Exuma restaurant who was contracted to provide food—tells of how she had to front $50,000 of her own savings after Fyre refused to pay her workers after fleeing the island. They left the locals high and dry. (Someone please start up a GoFundMe for MaryAnn).

 

The Fyre Festival was canceled. Billy McFarland is now serving six years in prison and was ordered to pay $26 million of restitution. The next Fyre Festival has just been announced: It will be held on Riker's Island. Get your tickets before they sell out.

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