Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened – How the VIP festival crashed and burned

Review: Chronicle of how ‘the most luxurious musical festival ever’ went pear-shaped

It was sold as the festival to beat all festivals, but things didn't quite turn out that way.

Film Title: Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened

Director: Chris Smith

Starring:

Genre: Documentary

Running Time: 108 min

Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 06:00

   

In April, 2017, thousands of affluent youngsters and “influencers” made their way toward a private island in the Bahamas that was once owned by Pablo Escobar. The occasion was the Fyre Music Festival, an event that was billed as the most luxurious musical festival ever staged.

The conspicuously high presence of Blink 182 on the playbill ought to have set alarm bells ringing. Instead, the well-heeled concert-goers were left stranded with little food and water, and soaking wet hurricane tents in lieu of well-appointed villas.

On paper, Chris Smith’s chronicle of the catastrophic event ought to be the schadenfreude event of the year, and for a while it is. There are lulz to be had at the expense of slick, spoofer Billy McFarland, who launched the ill-fated app behind the ill-fated festival: “A pipe dream” for “. . . your average guy in middle America”.

The expression on the faces of various arriving digital dignitaries as they go from Instagram pout to aghast is a worthwhile spectacle. The entire dubious business model – Kendall Jenner was paid $500,000 for a single endorsement – is eye-popping.

Smells a rat

It’s no great surprise to the employees that Fyre does not set the world ablaze. Early on, a financier named Calvin Wells smells a rat and debunks the entire project online. Nobody pays any attention.

Many of the employees are as duped as any of the ticket holders. McFarland’s celebrity partner, Ja Rule, seems curiously out of the loop. One of the social media team refuses to type more lies as everything goes pear-shaped. The response? A new social media team.

A local pilot flags the impossible logistics of getting thousands of people to and from such a remote location. His services are no longer required. Finally the staff are told that they’re not being let go, but there’s no longer a payroll. Everything on offer is a lie: they don’t even have Escobar’s island.

On Fyre: Ja Rule and Billy McFarland. Photograph: Netflix
On Fyre: Ja Rule and Billy McFarland. Photograph: Netflix

The postscript, in which “slick” McFarland gets caught running another con, might be satisfying if he hadn’t left so many others to carry the can. Fyre is far from being a punchline for Maryann Rolle, the Bahamian chef who had to pay out $50,000 to catering staff from her “rainy day” money.

Chris Smith, who previously directed the brilliant 1999 doc, American Movie, has questions about Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski and the other digital influencers who walked away clean from this entire debacle. As one generous former Fyre employee argues, we don’t blame the person advertising the BMW if our car breaks down. Perhaps, but at least we know that there was shilling involved.

Time to legislate for #paidadvertisement, please.