FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened | Chris Smith | January 18, 2019
On the night of April 27, 2017, you couldn’t go on social media without scrolling through live updates of the Fyre Festival. Normally, this would be the publicity of dreams, the sort that money just can’t buy. Only, the influx of social media postings would single-handily kill the festival and cement it as one of the biggest failures in the music industries history but more importantly, as a serious act of fraud.
This is the topic of Netflix’s highly publicized documentary on the debacle (helped by Hulu dropping a Fyre documentary of their own out of nowhere a few days before). Directed by Chris Smith, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is a fascinating look behind the scenes of the festival.
Billy McFarland started the festival essentially as a means to promote his Fyre app, which he partnered with rapper Ja Rule, as basically a Tinder/Uber for booking acts for any sort of event. Interviews with former Fyre employees, including members of marketing team FuckJerry (also producers on the film), present a picture of McFarland as a hungry budding entrepreneur, but one who had some questionable methods and people behind him.
You see how McFarland and company found built this idealistic vision of a super vacation/festival hybrid, literally flying in super famous models for a big promotional shoot and used them and fellow social media influencers to hype the festival to dramatic lengths, selling it out with ease, even though they only had mere months to properly plan and build it, when most festivals do so at least a full 12 months ahead. But ignorance is bliss and McFarland, Ja Rule, and friends were too busy getting loaded on the beach to fully comprehend what exactly they were getting themselves into. Or they knew full well and just didn’t care or even think of the consequences.
While Smith’s documentary doesn’t have the one-on-one interview with McFarland (Hulu’s does) due to McFarland asking for an enormous fee to participate, there are enough insightful discussions with important people of different capacities to paint more than a vivid picture of how this bonkers operation began and crashed so spectacularly.
Fyre’s failure is a culmination of all things of modern day social media, with the irony being that social media ending up being their death-kneel once guests arrived. Although FuckJerry had a hand in producing, they didn’t shy away from condemning the actions of all of those involved, with multiple members questioning if even just working hard and finding solutions to problems leading up to the festival helped enable McFarland and others to continue down this destructive path that was never going to have a happy ending.
Many are perplexed that there is no interview with the mastermind behind the whole ordeal. While an interview with McFarland would seem necessary on the surface, based on the fact that McFarland is a compulsive liar and went back to fraudulent schemes literally after he was released on bail, who knows if any information he provided would be useful (and after seeing Hulu’s doc, it’s not much).
One point that the documentary makes is how the internet took no shame in laughing at all these super wealthy (mostly white) people getting essentially ripped off and having a pretty poor 48 hours. The documentary does indulge in this as well, but it also paints a sobering picture at the end when you realize that McFarland screwed over many of his employees and friends, as well as workers on the island, left financially decimated by McFarland with no expectation of ever really recovering on their own as a result of this festival. While many on the internet, including myself, were laughing at the absurdity of it all, the fact that so many people were harmed by McFarland’s actions makes you see the whole situation in an entirely different light.