Fyre Festival Descended Into Utter Chaos And The People Who Paid Serious Cash For It Are Livid

Ja Rule, who helped organize the festival, said the festival was not intended to be a scam, and that he’s working to refund guests’ money.

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Fyre Festival — organized by Ja Rule and billed as a luxury music, art, and food event on a private island in the Bahamas and hyped heavily on social media by ~influencers~ like Kendall Jenner — actually turned into a hot, hot, hot mess that everyone compared to Lord of the Flies. As a result, it was canceled on opening day.

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Friday was literally the first day of the two-weekend event.

Flights were also canceled. Headliners dropped out. Guests tweeted photos of bare-bones food and lodging and comparing the stark reality to the (absurd) promotional videos the festival had put out.

Expectation v. Reality for the biggest scamming festival in the 21st Century #FyreFestival @WNFIV @FyreFraud

"It was 'Hunger Games,'" one woman told BuzzFeed News.

People who were still on the island Friday told BuzzFeed News Deputy Editor Elizabeth Pears they arrived at the festival to find no pillows, Amazon boxes littered everywhere on the grounds, no electricity, and no private bathrooms.

"Our expectations were it was going to be really rocky," one person said. "When we got there it was a total disaster."

Musicians cancelled, and most people said they were looking to get refunds after paying thousands of dollars.

"We fought for places to sleep, but it wasn't that bad," one woman said.

Another woman described a chaotic scene, with attendees fighting for toiletries and essentials.

"It was a free-for-all," she said. "They were just grabbing towels, everything was on the ground."

Another man told BuzzFeed News there was no one to tell people where they would sleep or where their belongings were.

"We were the literal first people to get a tent, we were first in line," he said. "About 45 minutes later we saw a rush of people coming over. They said, 'Just go find one.'"

"I was a computer programmer and, after computers, the two things I love the most are the ocean and, for some reason, rap," he said. "So these three hobbies of mine somehow led me to meeting my partner, Ja Rule."

McFarland then described what he said was the beginning of the idea for the festival, when he flew from New York to the Bahamas with Ja Rule and landed in Exumas when the plane was running out of gas.

"That was our first time there and we absolutely fell in love with it," he said.

But McFarland said the festival and the number of guests quickly outgrew the staff slated for the event, leading to this weekend's fiasco.

"It's a very, very tough day for all of us," he said.

"I think the festival took on a life of its own, bringing more guests than we expected," McFarland said. "We quickly learned that the infrastructure here in the island was not what we were used to."

Asked whether the company was prepared to handle an event of the magnitude that it advertised, McFarland said it was "very ambitious in our part."

"We needed more manpower than the 300-person team we had," he continued.

While the company had decided to go with the concept of "literally building our own city," McFarland said it wasn't until after they began promoting the event that they realized the full scale of resources that would be needed, including water systems and tent housing on the beach.

McFarland denied reports that there were signs during the planning stages that the event was going south.

A talent producer wrote a piece in New York Magazine's The Cut that she quit days after being hired and "got a front-row seat to chaos."

However, McFarland said vendors, including the catering service, did not cancel because of problems with organizing the event but because Fyre had decided to hire locals.

When asked why headlining artists, such as Blink 182, pulled out of the event the day before, McFarland initially said it was because of travel arrangements. When it was pointed out that the band did not mention travel in a message to fans, he said "the situation came down to logistics down the board."

Other last minute challenges, including a storm the day before, also affected the festival's tents and water systems, he said.

Everyone who planned to attend the festival will receive a full refund, he added.

Fyre will also be planning a free concert in 2018 on a US beach, McFarland said, to make it up to people who planned to attend the festival in the Bahamas.

According to its website, the festival promised that attendees would be flown roundtrip on "a custom, VIP-configured Boeing 737 aircraft between Miami International Airport and Exuma International Airport on Great Exuma.” (Exuma is a district in the Bahamas.) Tickets for the event appeared to range from $2,000 to $12,000.

Facebook: fyrefestival

But several people attending the festival said their flights from Miami were grounded. Fyre Festival later sent guests an update: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, to alleviate logistical challenges, all inbound charter flights to the Exumas have been cancelled.”

And it's kind of a total shitshow @fyrefestival dropped us off at a beach yesterday after the airport without telling us any plan...

Update from #fyrefest: festival is not cancelled, we have a tent, food, water, etc. but they aren't letting anyone… https://t.co/louknjSkdO

And those who at least managed to board the plane and fly to the Exumas were apparently stranded on the tarmac for hours.

Welcome to Exuma! Sunrise at Fyre Fest. Still on the same plane we've been on since 1:30 am. My stomach is eating i… https://t.co/TnzVP45uE3

"It's just all unbelievable," William Finley, a writer who made it to the Exumas en route to Miami, told BuzzFeed News.

"We saw that it was kind of suspect in the weeks leading up but we gave them the benefit of the doubt, thinking they'd pull it off in time. It was complete chaos," he added.

Finley said lodging and accommodations had not been set up and that guests were not assigned places to stay.

"The food court was reminiscent of a state fair and not the 'world-class international culinary experience' that they advertised," Finley added.

The Fyre Festival site also noted that guests would be staying in "modern, eco-friendly, geodesic domes." Additional housing and events were supposed to be available for purchase on nearby islands.

However, arrivals at the Exumas were faced with something a little...less luxe. Actually, the domes were tents:

@FyreFraud Just a reminder of what "The Duo" was originally sold as

A BuzzFeed News editor on the scene confirmed the tents' origin, however, when asked on the phone, an employee for Shelter Systems said the company had not worked with festival organizers directly.

"I have not worked with them," he said.

According to its website, the tents come in varying sizes and are "durable, watertight, wind-resistant, pleasant to live in, easily to set up, and affordable."

The company notes the tents, which have been used in disasters in Nepal, Haiti, and Venezuela, are only sold to relief agencies and nonprofits.

McFarland told BuzzFeed News his company did not use Shelter Systems, but Eventstar, which has provided tents and other structures to concert events.

In addition to the accommodations, the food appeared to be pretty basic, as well. 👀😬

The dinner that @fyrefestival promised us was catered by Steven Starr is literally bread, cheese, and salad with dr… https://t.co/GjBxQygxV9

A view of the luxury food court with some luxury school bus transportation at Fyre Festival. #fyre #fyrefestival

Starr Catering Group had initially signed on with Fyre Festival to provide the food, but told BuzzFeed News in a statement that their contract was terminated on April 2. It's unclear who was serving up the fare.

STARR Catering Group confirms that after engaging with Fyre Media Inc. on March 6, 2017 to offer premium dining experiences and unique culinary experiences to the attendees of Fyre Festival, the agreement was terminated on April 2, 2017.

Simon Powles, Starr Catering Group, CEO, comments: “To resolve any confusion, STARR Catering is not providing any catering services at the Fyre Festival. The Food Services Agreement STARR Catering entered for the Fyre Festival was terminated on April 2, 2017 and since that date STARR Catering has not been involved with, or provided any services in connection with this event.

One of the kitchens at Fyre Festival. #fyre #fyrefest #fyrefestival

THEN, as if things couldn’t get more bleak, Blink 182, one of many performers headlining Fyre Fest, dropped out.

“We’re not confident that we would have what we need to give you the quality of performances we always give our fans,” the band said in its statement.

Blink 182 aren't the only ones to have jumped ship. Jenner, who had hyped the event, appeared to have deleted any mention of it from her Instagram.

Opps! Kendall better delete this.... #fyrefestival

But people had their receipts and dragged her on social media for backing the festival.

I keep picturing @KendallJenner handing out Pepsi at #fyrefestival to keep the peace

Other artists and musicians who were set to perform told BuzzFeed News they received cancellation notices on their way to the festival. One artist was even shut down in the middle of his performance.

"As a matter of fact, Daniel Cowel was the only artist who played at Fyre Festival," Cowel's manager told BuzzFeed News. "He played for 60 minutes and during his set the Bahamian government cancelled the festival."

Cowel's manager said he encouraged him to keep playing, "because the people had been through so much already," but the sound was eventually shut off.

Another musician, Lee Burridge, told BuzzFeed News he was stuck in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, and woke up to find out about the disarray and social media backlash.

"(I) didn't even get to go to the island it;s [sic] happening so no lord of the flies [sic] experience for me!" he told BuzzFeed News. "I woke up this morning to news it had been canceled."

Through it all, no one seems to know where Ja Rule is, even though he posted photos to his Instagram about "getting Fyre fly ready for flight" two days ago. (The photos have since been deleted.)

However, a spokesperson for Jack Daniels confirmed to BuzzFeed News that Ja Rule was in Chicago Thursday night and had performed at House No. 7.

On top of that, Fyre Festival started disabling the comments on its Instagram account in an apparent attempt to clamp down on the many, many complaints.

A Twitter account called @FyreFraud, however, managed to grab some of the comments before they were deleted.

...and now #fyrefestival has reverted back to deleting messages versus responding to customers. How have there not… https://t.co/9o7aFYNLDz

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism released a statement on the debacle Friday morning, saying officials were "extremely disappointed in the way the events unfolded yesterday."

Bahamas official statement on Fyre Festival #FyreFestival

They added that organizers had assured them they had taken the necessary measures to ensure a safe and successful event, "but clearly they did not have the capacity to execute an event of this scale."

Compounding the problem were issues at the airport, where officials appeared to have chained up the doors and people said they weren't allowed out of a very hot waiting area.

#exumaairport officials just placed #chains on for to keep anyone from going outside.#Fyrefestival #hoax @USAgency… https://t.co/LJ3fQk2zHg

Friday morning, the organizers released a statement on social media canceling the event, citing "circumstances beyond our control" and that information about refunds was forthcoming.

Instagram: @fyrefestival

By Friday afternoon, the whole Fyre Fest website was wiped except for the statement below.

fyrefestival.com

"Due to circumstances out of our control, the physical infrastructure was not in place on time and we are unable to fulfill on that vision safely and enjoyably for our guests," the organizers wrote.

"The festival is being postponed until we can further assess if and when we are able to create the high- quality experience we envisioned," they added.

Not long after that, Ja Rule tweeted that he was "heartbroken" by the incident and insisted that it was not his fault.

McFarland said Ja Rule was someone that he deeply admired, and said the musician did not have any role in the planning or logistics of the festival.

Now, let’s be honest: This has all been very, very unfortunate for the folks who shelled out thousands of dollars for tickets to a music festival in the Caribbean, but everyone else seems to be soaking it up. #FyreFestival is now loaded with schadenfreude.

I was tired then clicked on #FyreFestival now I'm wide awake

To become Lord of the #fyrefestival you need a core group and attack individuals. Go after groups and you could lose

internet: look up #fyrefestival me for 2 hours:

What if I told you... that when there's smoke, sometimes there's no fyre?

.@WNFIV So to recap? Some Instagram kids just paid between $450 & +$12k... to be stranded... in a tropical tent cit… https://t.co/erXgRjCG65

Some people there, however, insisted that not everyone there was a rich kid.

I met a boy, HERE BY HIMSELF, who literally told me that this trip bankrupt him. And he paid bottom tier GA just like me. Absolutely sad.

But others seemed less phased and took to referring to the area as a "refugee camp."

Instagram: @lucas_laffitte

Tamerra Griffin is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Tamerra Griffin at tamerra.griffin@buzzfeed.com.

Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Salvador Hernandez at salvador.hernandez@buzzfeed.com.

Elizabeth Pears is a deputy news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Elizabeth Pears at Elizabeth.Pears@BuzzFeed.com.

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