Ja Rule's Luxury Fyre Festival Canceled After Disastrous Start

Organizers "postpone" two-weekend Bahamas fest following reports of feral dogs, threatening security, shoddy housing

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Ja Rule's Luxury Fyre Festival Canceled After Disastrous Start

The inaugural Fyre Festival, a luxury music festival in the Bahamas, was postponed Friday after a disastrous opening day where headliners bailed, promised amenities went undelivered and festivalgoers were stranded at the airport.

With tickets priced between $5,000 and $250,000, the Fyre Festival, created by Ja Rule and entrepreneur Billy McFarland, promised a "premium" experience that included resort-style accommodations alongside performances by artists like Blink-182, Disclosure, Major Lazer, Lil Yachty and select members of the G.O.O.D. Music roster.

After a flashy, high-profile announcement for the festival – models like Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin and Emily Ratajkowski all hyped up the fest – tickets for Fyre sold out. However, at the beginning of April, the Wall Street Journal reported that the festival was showing signs of initial trouble, with organizers missing payment deadlines and dealing with "miscommunication" woes after struggling to bring in potential investors. 

Despite the concerns, the Fyre Festival continued as scheduled, with guests arriving Thursday ahead of the April 28th launch date, the first of two Fyre weekends. When festivalgoers began arriving at the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas, however, they found a garbage-filled, unfinished festival site that barely resembled the experience they hoped the thousands of dollars spent would provide; the island was previously owned by drug lord Pablo Escobar, organizers noted.

Villas were nothing more than "disaster relief tents," festivalgoer William Finley told Billboard. "With a mattress on some sort of bed frame. They're not that uncomfortable but the tents are so poorly made that they'd blow over in a second if there was any wind or rain."

Similarly, the "celebrity chef-prepared meals" on the island consisted of a cheese sandwich and small salad served in a Styrofoam container.

Chaos ruled all facets of the festival: Luggage was simply thrown out of the back of a truck, feral dogs ran around the festival site and there were few security guards or festival employees on-site to assist attendees. Fyre victims have turned to Reddit to share their experiences, with one person posting that they witnessed "one guy [who] got punched out by security and they took his wallet."

As word of the disaster at Fyre spread, Blink-182 alerted fans that they would be canceling their scheduled headlining performance at the festival.

"Regrettably, and after much careful and difficult consideration, we want to let you know that we won't be performing at Fyre Fest in the Bahamas this weekend and next weekend," the band tweeted. "We're not confident that we would have what we need to give you the quality of performances we always give fans."

Tilly Smith, a British citizen who planned on attending Fyre, told the Daily Mail that a friend who was already in the Bahamas warned her about conditions at the festival site.

"He was absolutely gutted. He said the place was a complete dump, just a rain soaked mud bowl," Smith said. "There was basically nothing there. The boutique tents hadn't been put up, The stages were tiny. He said there was filth everywhere and more worryingly really fierce dogs running about. He said angry locals had started threatening people as well. He said basically it was worse than a refugee camp."

On Thursday afternoon, festivalgoers who were en route to Fyre were informed that they would not be continuing on to the Exuma Cays.

Organizers said in a statement, "Due to overcapacity on the island, we need to cancel all existing flights to ensure the safety of our guests. Fyre will reach out to every passenger individually to sort out details."

Those stranded at the Miami airport ended up being the fortunate ones as, with the festival in disarray, attendees traveled en masse back to the Bahamas airport for flights back to the U.S.

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism also issued an apology over the nightmarish experience:

After initially blaming the "unexpected" first day travails on "the growing pains that every first-year event experiences," organizers eventually wrote on Instagram on Friday that the festival would be "postponed" – even though they promised refunds – due to "circumstances beyond our control."

"Fyre Festival set out to provide a once-in-a-lifetime musical experience on the islands of Exuma," organizers wrote. "Due to circumstances beyond our control, we must postpone this experience. We are working tirelessly to ensure each guest leaves the island safely and ask for everyone’s patience and cooperation as we continue to provide ongoing updates via email and our official social media channels as they become available, including refund information."

Representatives for the festival, Ja Rule and McFarland did not immediately reply to multiple requests for comment.