A supposedly opulent music festival on a private island in the Bahamas, which was plugged as an unprecedented V.I.P. event by Instagram influencers including Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski, descended into dysfunction and disarray as soon as it began on Thursday and has since been postponed indefinitely, organizers said.
The inaugural Fyre Festival, founded by the rapper Ja Rule and the tech entrepreneur Billy McFarland, was set to feature performances by G.O.O.D. Music, Blink-182, Migos, Lil Yachty, Major Lazer and more — plus “first-class culinary experiences and a luxury atmosphere,” with ticket packages reaching six-figures for chartered yachts and private planes.
But when guests arrived for the first weekend on Thursday, they found grounds that were woefully lacking in the promised amenities and organization, according to accounts on social media that highlighted the soggy tents, bad food and general disappointment verging on panic.
By Friday morning, the festival was in damage-control mode as attendees attempted to flee the gathering. “Fyre Festival set out to provide a once-in-a-lifetime musical experience on the Islands of the Exumas,” the organizers said in a statement. “Due to circumstances out of our control, the physical infrastructure was not in place on time and we are unable to fulfill on that vision safely and enjoyably for our guests.”
“At this time, we are working tirelessly to get flights scheduled and get everyone off of Great Exuma and home safely as quickly as we can,” they continued. “We are working to place everyone on complimentary charters back to Miami today; this process has commenced and the comfort and safety of our guests is our top priority.”
Eddie James, a representative for the festival, said in a brief interview that some guests were still on site as of early Friday afternoon. “But there are plans in place to get everybody off the island safely today,” he said.
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism expressed its dismay in a statement on Friday, citing the festival’s “disorganization and chaos.” It continued: “We are extremely disappointed in the way the events unfolded yesterday with the Fyre Festival. We offer a heartfelt apology to all who traveled to our country for this event.”
The reality of the festival — which had been set to repeat for a second three-day weekend from May 5 to 7 — was a far cry from what was sold in a series of glamorous Instagram posts and other promotional material.
“Miles of white beach and turquoise water await attendees for a variety of sonic, communal and artistic activities,” one early description said. “A marina which serves as V.I.P. docking space for yachts is located within yards of the festival grounds. Guests can choose to stay in a variety of tented accommodations, V.I.P. housing or private yachts.”
Attendees were told they could “start each day with morning yoga and guided meditation on the beach,” while also enjoying “massages, henna tattooing, sound healing, chill-out sessions and a festive Bahamian junkanoo parade kicking-off each weekend.” Descriptions of the food options pledged “a uniquely authentic island cuisine experience,” with “local seafood, Bahamian-style sushi and even a pig roast.”
Fyre was attempting to compete amid an increasingly elaborate landscape of boutique music festivals that have sprung up in the mold of industry leaders like Coachella and Desert Trip.
Mr. McFarland, the co-founder, told Vanity Fair earlier this week, “Obviously we think our lineup now is pretty awesome, but the experience is what we’re really packaging here.” (Tickets ran from about $1,000 to $12,000, though a spokeswoman for the event told Vanity Fair it was possible to spend “in excess of $104,995” for add-ons.)
There were, however, some early indications that what was being positioned as “the cultural experience of the decade” may not have been ready for the crowds. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that some artists had not yet been paid in accordance with their contracts, while guests — about 7,000 people were expected — complained of a concierge service that was slow to make contact.
On Friday, Fyre Festival said the whole thing was on hold “until we can further assess if and when we are able to create the high-quality experience we envisioned.” (Ja Rule has also deleted a number of posts that hyped the event from his Instagram page.)
“We ask for everyone’s patience and cooperation during this difficult time,” Fyre said, “as we work as quickly and safely as we can to remedy this unforeseeable situation.”