Netflix's FYRE Documentary Reveals the Astounding Story Behind the Music Festival Fail
Most people learned about the unprecedented fiasco that was Fyre Festival after a photo of a sad cheese sandwich went viral. This image of this so-called dinner distributed to ticket holders who’d paid top dollar for a premium music event was, indeed, emblematic of the hubris-driven hellscape of incompetence and fraud that greeted the attendees instead. But, as a hilarious (if also kind of upsetting) documentary coming to theaters and Netflix on Jan. 18 recounts in gory detail, the 2017 festival had been a disaster since the moment it was conceived, months earlier.
At the center of this wilder-than-fiction ride is Fyre’s mastermind: sweaty huckster Billy McFarland, a morbidly fascinating narcissist desperate to live the bro fantasy he’s selling. Organized in collaboration with rapper Ja Rule to promote the business partners’ live-music booking app, the event was hyped—in a video that found the pair lounging beachside with top models like Bella Hadid and Hailey Baldwin, plus a paid Instagram post from Kendall Jenner—as an exclusive luxury experience on a private island in the Bahamas. Headliners were set to include Migos, Blink-182, Rae Sremmurd and Diplo’s Major Lazer. Tickets started at $1500, with VIP options soaring into the tens of thousands. Thanks to that mammoth price tag, reliance on celebrity “influencers” and frat-party aesthetic, the festival was ripe for mockery even before its catastrophic failure. In delicious footage from the promo video shoot that appears in the film, also titled FYRE, an organizer articulates his own lack of respect for the target audience: “We’re selling a pipe dream to your average loser.”
Yet it was the execution of this plan, as documented in real time on social media—largely by the same influencers who’d been comped passes—that clinched Fyre’s legacy as one of the worst music festivals ever. After wearing out their welcome on the original island, McFarland and co. pivoted to a not-at-all-isolated beach in the Exumas. Advertised as high-end glamping structures, the lodgings turned out to be disaster-relief tents with mattresses soaked in rainwater. Transportation was a nightmare. Blink-182 dropped out at the last minute. The festival ended before it had even properly begun. McFarland was eventually arrested and is now serving a six-year sentence for wire fraud in connection with the event.