A music festival run by Ja Rule in the Bahamas has turned into a Lord of the Flies situation with thousands stranded. Concertgoers spent thousands on elaborate VIP packages following advertisements with Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowsk. Those ads promised a weekend of luxurious decadence costing as much as $250,000 for one package that can be spread among 12 people for the April 27-30 festival on Great Exuma. On April 27, one of the headliners, Blink 182, pulled out of the show. The band said in a statement, “We’re not confident that we would have what we need to give you the quality of performances we always give our fans.” Along with Ja Rule, the other brains behind the festival is tech entrepreneur Billy McFarland.
Here’s what you need to know about the biggest Ja Rule related disaster since “Thug Lovin'”:
1. One Festival Goer Said There is ‘Barely Any Food or Water or Security or Electricity’
On the night of April 27, Twitter and Instagram began to light up with messages from festival goers complaining about their situations. One user wrote, “Stuck at #fyrefestival trying to leave for the last 8 hours. barley any food or water or security or electricity.”
Others have described unmarked tents being used as lodgings as well as “feral dogs” rambling around, according to CNN. Remember, concert goers shelled out in the five figures for VIP packages. There is also no alcohol at the festival ground. Attendees had been promised, “a cultural moment created from a blend of music, art and food.”
William Finley of North Carolina told CNN, “We just realized it was all a complete cluster and nothing was ready, there was no organization, there was no leadership.” While another described it as “horrible, (like) summer camp. Everything about it was a sham.” Finley explained on Twitter that he had paid for an artist’s pass to the festival.
2. Less Than a Month Before the Festival Began, the Organizers Were Thought to Be ‘In Over Their Heads’
On April 17, the New York Post speculated in a report that the festival’s organizers were “in over their heads.” That was based on rumors that guests had not received proper itineraries and even that some of the performers hadn’t been paid. A source told the Post, “It feels like they have good intentions, but are out of their league … Several companies bailed on working with them because they were very disorganized. They don’t return calls.”
The Wall Street Journal had reported on similar problems earlier this month.
Vanity Fair reported that Ja Rule and McFarland were paying nearly 500 Instagram influncers to promote the festival on their channels. McFarland told the magazine, “We didn’t just want to be a tech company that was a pure enterprise with no consumer awareness. So a festival was a great way to go and do that and beyond people who are attending.”
In an Instagram post after the chaos unfolded, the organizers said that things had “got off to an unexpected start.” That message added, “Thank you for bearing with us as we work through the growing pains that every first year event experiences.”
William Finley had told the Guardian, “In the week leading up to it some things seemed like they weren’t as advertised. We gave them the benefit of the doubt and figured they’d pull things together before we got there. And we were dead wrong. It was chaos. No organization, no one was in charge, there was just a line and no one knew what to do.”
The Bahamian Tourism Ministry said in a statement, “We are extremely disappointed in the way events unfolded yesterday with the Fyre Festival… The event organizers assured us that all measures were taken to ensure a safe and successful event but clearly they did not have the capacity to execute an event of this scale.”
3. A Second Session of the Festival Is Booked to Take Place on May 5
A second session of the festival is due to take place on May 5 until May 7. At the time of writing, the information portal about the second session has been removed from the Bahamian Ministry of Tourism website.
4. Inbound Flights to the Island’s Tiny Airport Have Been Canceled
The tiny airport on Great Exuma has been awash with festival goers trying to get home. While inbound flights have been canceled until further notice. CNN reports that those expected to travel today have had their travel refunded.
5. Even People Working for the Event Are Having Problems
Popular New York City vlogger Krispy Shorts was hired by Ja Rule in January 2017 to come up with video concepts and to vlog the festival. His first vlog from the Bahamas demonstrated some of the chaos as he and his friends were forced to hitch hike to the festival ground.
In addition to Blink 182, Migos and G.O.O.D. Music and Major Lazer were among the 40 or so performers on the bill.