Fyre Festival comparisons as Belgian event grinds to chaotic halt

Organisers cite security concerns for issues as local authorities open fraud inquiry

The VestiVille festival in Belgium was cancelled at the last moment, despite many festival goers having already arrived on site for the weekend music event. Video: Cristina Bran/Reuters

 

A music festival in Belgium featuring major stars like rapper Cardi B came to a chaotic end before it had even started.

Security concerns were apparently the reason behind the cancellation of this weekend’s VestiVille festival, though local officials have opened a fraud investigation.

That development added a further layer of confusion and rekindled memories of the Fyre Festival, the failed Bahamas event in 2017 that was brought to the world’s attention in a documentary earlier this year.

Videos posted on Twitter show an elaborate stage apparently ready for the three-day event on a campsite in Lommel in Belgium’s Flemish region.

But thousands of festival-goers from around Europe and elsewhere got a shock as police, some with dogs, moved in to try to keep them out of the grounds.

Belgium’s RTBF network said the Limbourg prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation on suspicion of fraud over payments. It quoted spokesman Jeroen Swijssen as saying three of the festival organisers were questioned.

Tweet

An investigating judge was said to be questioning them further over the weekend on an array of suspicions including fraud, laundering and breach of trust.

VestiVille wrote on Facebook and Twitter on Friday that Lommel Mayor Bob Nijs stopped the festival on security grounds.

Safety

The posts said that after consulting security services and security for star rapper A$AP Rocky, “it was decided that the safety of the artist and the public could not be guaranteed”. However, security issues were not currently included in the investigation.

A$AP Rocky said on Twitter that the promoters had told him “security and infrastructure concerns” would have been “handled but unfortunately for you and me they didn’t”.

The Fyre Festival was meant to be a music blowout in a luxurious setting on a Bahamian island. It never opened due to a series of problems from security to food.

Rapper Ja Rule, a co-founder of Fyre Festival, was to perform on Saturday at VestiVille. He has denied any involvement in any fraud and has never been charged with any wrongdoing related to the failed enterprise.

Billy McFarland (26), Fyre’s co-founder, was sentenced last October in a federal court in Manhattan to six years in prison. He admitted to defrauding investors of US$26 million and US$100,000 in a fraudulent ticket-selling scheme after his arrest.

Angry VestiVille festival-goers posted comparisons between the two festivals across social media. However, some tried to replace disappointment with fun.

Video on Twitter showed several young people climbing on to the stage and giving goofy performances. - Reuters