Fyre Festival fiasco makes good viewing

Fyre Festival: The reality.

What a fantastically sunny run of events we’ve had!

It’s been great this year. Bay Dreams, One Love, Slash, Toto, the 80s disco show, Live Music at The Lettuce Inn, Katikati Twilight Concerts, River Sounds Festival and more have all enjoyed brilliant sun over the past month.

Despite a glaring hole at The Mount on New Year’s Eve, this is definitely not sleepy ol’ Tauranga any more.

Having these festivals go off without a hitch is a badge of honour for the promoters. New Zealand is not a stranger to unsuccessful festivals - think Neon Picnic or Sweetwaters 1999 - so it’s  good to see people doing it properly.

There’s a prime example circulating right now of people not doing it properly. If you have access to Netflix, I’d recommend watching it, though perhaps with safety padding to prevent injury each time your jaw hits the floor.

Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is the story of the Fyre Festival - a seemingly utopian festival experience that promised to take place in The Bahamas on an island once owned by drug lord Pablo Escobar.

Viral marketing

It was advertised virally by around 200 “social media influencers”, who were handsomely paid to share film of 20 supermodels sunning, drinking and frolicking on a tropical beach.

Kendall Jenner allegedly pocketed US$250,000 for sharing the video. Tickets, 5000 of them, aimed almost exclusively at ultra-rich New York millennials cost several thousands of dollars and sold out almost immediately.

And what an array of tickets! They came with luxury villas, luxury boat cruises, luxury meetings with the stars and aforementioned supermodels, luxury food, and pretty much every other luxury that a generous trust fund can buy. Add to that your “cash-free” festival wrist-band. For Fyre, well-heeled punters typically loaded around $80,000. Y’know, just in case...

The problem, as many who remember the news coverage will know, is that it was all a con. A pipe dream.

A young swindler, Billy McFarland, already the creator of a sizeable credit card scam, set it up along with one of music’s most egotistical and unpleasant practitioners, Ja Rule.

Everyone involved knew it would fail, yet up to the last  minute they scammed more and more money from investors and ticket holders.

And they spent it. Not on artists – all the artists cancelled when they realised that even the stage wouldn’t be built in time.

No, they spent it on themselves.

Booze, jet skis, plane rides, more booze - every little thing they wanted. What they neglected to organise was accommodation, water, food, power - well, pretty much everything you need to actually run an event.

The island

It should have been cancelled right at the start. The contract they signed to obtain the “private island owned by Pablo Escobar” was immediately rescinded because part of the agreement was not to tell anyone that the island was previously owned by the drug lord.

That was pretty much the first line in their promotion and they were kicked off within 24 hours of the initial advertising.

It turns out they never had the money to pay for it anyway.

That they then relocated to an unsuitable industrial site was never mentioned. Pictures were doctored; maps were faked.

While there is something possibly unseemly about taking pleasure in the misery of others, watching this slow-motion train wreck is a constant joy for lovers of schadenfreude.

And when around three hundred attendees – some of them those very “influencers” who advertised the bash in the first place – fly in, despite prominent warnings that it was all a scam, things finally collapse completely as they find themselves with no food and power, staying in emergency tents sourced from Federal Emergency Management Agency.

It is doubly entertaining, or alarming depending on your perspective, how quickly these pampered young things turn feral. Within hours they are burning other’s tents, stealing anything not nailed down and almost ready to re-enact Lord of the Flies. You’ve gotta love those millionaire millennials!

There’s also a second documentary, almost as good, called Fyre Fraud.

It’s on Hulu.

Check out either one for a mind-boggling alternative view of lifestyles of the rich and famous.


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