From the Fyre Into The Frying Pan (Documentary Review: “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened”)


If Survivor slipped a roofie to Lord of the Flies and some demon spawn was unleashed on the hashtag world of poseurs and FOMO ‘influencers’, it still wouldn’t hold a candle to the level of crazy that was the Fyre Festival. You’ll be scratching your head in utter amazement that this all actually happened.

SnapShot Plot

A cautionary tale from beginning to end, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is the absorbing Netflix documentary (not to be confused with the identical topic covered in a competing documentary currently streaming on Hulu) about a luxury music festival that was supposed to take place in the Bahamas almost two years ago that is now the stuff of illusionist legend. It seems we all like to worship at the feet of bad-boy entrepreneurs who implicitly understand that a combination of sex and hubris can sell you your own pants before you even realize your belt’s undone. And that figure couldn’t have manifested in a more winsomely larcenous individual than Billy McFarland, the boy-wonder mastermind behind the now defunct millennial black credit card company, Magnises. McFarland painted himself as some uber Midas, for whom everything he touched turned into gold. Allegedly, McFarland had actually purchased the Bahamian private island of drug lord Pablo Escobar and was now set to produce the world’s most luxe rock festival in less than a year’s time. (That should have been the warning shot heard around the world.) He then partnered with hip-hop sensation Ja Rule and the two embarked on a far-fetched plan to entice Millenial influencers and an unwitting public to join them in a sex, drugs and rock n’roll romp that would be the stuff of legend. They started the hype by hiring a small group of top supermodels (including Bella Hadid) to appear in a series of videos and ads that would function as the carrot to lure their customers onto the island. Nothing was too grand or untenable to those who would put down hard cash for the experience – and the bragging rights – of a lifetime. The problem was, it was one huge con. The question that always remained at the center was how much Billy was drinking his own bathwater or if he actually thought he could pull it off. As the months ticked down to weeks and days, anybody with half a brain could see that disaster was looming just over the next glorious sunset.



Parting Shot 

As is always the case with the worst liars and con artists in history, they always drag down good people with them. In this case, there were legions of software engineers at Fyre Media Inc., the parent company of the Fyre Festival, who worked tirelessly on the backbone of the event planning/ticket sales and booking site upon which it was all built. As well, there were Billy’s countless partners and investors, who each seemed to swallow their prides and their souls while struggling to come to terms with the obvious fraud they were involved in hatching. And most heartbreaking of all, there were the countless Bahamian laborers whose sweat equity was never reciprocated in any kind of fair payment, literally left out in the cold. But most astonishing are the raw cell phone videos, as the planes of Millennials and ‘influencers’ begin landing on the island, realizing that the scene that awaits them is a far cry from the slick website and more like a bad rerun of Survivor. It’s a miracle this oh-so-bad scene didn’t become a truly tragic headline. As it was, the criminal headlines were severe. Billy McFarland was eventually  convicted of defrauding investors of $27.4 million, and as of October 2018, he was sentenced to six years in federal prison. Not even ironically, while out on $300,000 bail this past summer, McFarland was caught and charged with selling fraudulent tickets to events such as the Met Gala, Burning Man, and Coachella . . . shockingly this is all caught on video and included in the film.

Although this post deals with the Netflix documentary, I can’t help but cite the opening voice-over from the Hulu rival film, in trying to answer the ineffable question of “How can the smartest, most indulged generation in the most technically sophisticated world fall for this utter crap con job?” Here’s how it went: “You’re living in your parents bedroom, you look at your phone, which you look at 100 times an hour… seeing people in places that you’re not, doing things you can’t afford to do.”

What’s that thing we always hear in Vampire stories, that the beast hovering outside your window must ask permission to enter, and that permission must be granted.

Fyre is presently streaming on Netflix.

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