The Fyre Festival is Still a Damn Mess, and Now the FBI is Involved 

By Sidney Fussell on at

Fallout from the cataclysmic Fyre Festival is still going, per a new report in the New York Times, and it’s spread from its owner and organisers to Bahamian locals. Oh, and now the FBI is apparently involved, too.

If you’ll recall, Fyre Media co-owners Billy McFarland, 25, and rapper turned mojito-mogul, Ja Rule, sold 8,000 tickets to a two-weekend music festival in the Bahamas. The gathering was heavily promoted — it was hawked by high-profile models like Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski, and promised headlining acts like Blink-182, Migos, and Iggy Azalea. As the world would very quickly learn, however, none of that happened — in fact, the entire thing was a giant clusterfuck. When partygoers arrived, housing was a series of camping tents, security and medical services were absent, and the toilets and showers were inoperable.

Festival attendees quickly slapped Ja and McFarland with a £80 million class action lawsuit, alleging fraud and negligence. According to a series of leaked phone calls obtained by both the Times and Vice, McFarland still hasn’t paid Fyre Media employees, and Ja bizarrely tried to use the media firestorm to assuage their concerns.

“The whole world knows Fyre’s name now,” Ja told employees, according to the Times. “This will pass, guys.”

But now, though festival attendees have largely made it back from the carnage, it turns out that local businesses and residents may have gotten the worst part of the deal.

As the Times reports, local restaurant owners, event coordinators, and carpenters are still owed hundreds of thousands of dollars from the festival, and McFarland and co. have disappeared. One man, a local carpenter, says he was asked to work 18-hour days to build housing because organisers were in a rush to complete the venue before attendees arrived. He said he hasn’t been paid, and told the Times his lights and water have been shut off because he couldn’t afford the bills. MaryAnn Rolle, a local restaurant owner, says Fyre still owes her £110,000 from the festival for providing food.

Much of the remaining equipment was rented from other companies, both locally and in the US. Bahamian authorities are holding some of the rented equipment because Fyre still owes the government more than £240,000. Some business owners are incurring much greater losses because they have less equipment to rent. One Miami company that furnished equipment estimates £8 million in unpaid fees and business lost.

Worse still for McFarland and Ja, the Times reports that a criminal investigation has been launched:

The endeavour has also become the focus of a criminal investigation, with federal authorities looking into possible mail, wire and securities fraud, according to a source with knowledge of the matter, who was not authorised to discuss it. The investigation is being conducted by the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York and the F.B.I.; it is being overseen by a prosecutor assigned to the complex frauds and cybercrime unit.

The Fyre Festival saga, which at first seemed a tale of millennial narcissism, isn’t just a lesson in schadenfreude, it’s also about hideous corruption and exploitation. Hopefully, when all is said and done, it will also be a lesson in accountability. [The New York Times]