When Fyre festival’s Billy McFarland promoted a ‘transformative experience,’ we bet he never guessed it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now he’s facing up to 20 years in prison for fraud and the wrath of privileged white kid’s parents, we’re betting he’s about to go through some significant transformations of his own.
Don’t worry Billy, plenty of festival promoters have screwed up just as badly as you. Here’s ten of the best (or worst, as the case may be….)
#1 Woodstock ‘99
WHERE: New York State
WHEN: July 22 25 1999
WTF HAPPENED: Red Hot Chilli Riot
Woodstock organisers crammed more than 350,000 people on a hot tarmac with no shade in the middle of summer and wanted them all to pay $4 for a bottle of water. ‘Nuff said- the riot started during Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ set but that wasn’t even the worst part.
While assaulting patrons with their music, Limp Bizkit incited the crowd to ‘break stuff’ that resulted in wild brawls and multiple gang rapes in the middle of the crowd. There were countless assaults, robberies and a truck drove into the crowd.
WTF HAPPENED: Peace, love and bikies
Despite an eye-watering lineup including the Rolling Stones, Santana, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, Altimo was a free concert for around 300,000 of flower power’s finest. Poorly organised with few facilities, things really turned south when the Hells Angels turned up as event security.
That’s right; the organisers actually hired bikers to provide security. And then paid them with beer. At the event. But hey, what could go wrong when you put drunk, violent men in positions of power over hippies? Four deaths isn’t that bad, right?
We’ll leave with Rolling Stone magazine’s description of the Altamont fiasco as "rock and roll's all-time worst day, December 6th, a day when everything went perfectly wrong."
#3 Love Parade
WTF HAPPENED: Bureaucratic bottleneck
When the transient annual Love Parade arrived in Duisburg, local officials thought it would be great idea for 1, 000, 000 ravers to be enclosed in a space for a quarter million. And get there through one small entrance.
Patrons through a tunnel on the other side of the venue was a way and made their way through, not realising the tunnel was closed at the other end. After 21 deaths and 500 injuries, organisers permanently cancelled the 12 year old free festival.
#4 Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival
WTF HAPPENED: Swampy chaos
As a ‘fuck you’ to the authorities of Indiana, who banned the event from happening in their state at the last minute, organisers moved to an island in a river that served as the state border just to annoy them. Bull Island was a swamp barely able to cope with the expected 55,000 fans much less than the 200,000 who showed up.
Add some torrential rain, lack of infrastructure and supplies and a drug ‘shopping district’ and you got one hell of a party on your hands. Think Lord of the Flies meets Rum Diary and you’re nearly there. By the end of the violent weekend most performers had cancelled their appearance, three were dead, RVs were overturned and, to cap it off, the crowd burned the main stage to a cinder.
Bet the Maitreya organisers are starting to feel better now…..
#5 Zoo Thousand and Eight (ZOO8)
WHERE: Kent, UK
WTF HAPPENED: Animals (and zoo residents)
Held inside a wildlife park, ZOO8 punters waited for over four hours to get inside the venue with limited camping space, less water and even fewer headliners showing up to perform after they weren’t paid by organisers.
One of the stages was repeatedly shut down due to safety fears and perimeter fences were broken down, allowing thousands to enter without tickets. And we’re not quite sure they ever found that leopard...
#6 Lusaka Festival
WTF HAPPENED: Nothing
We all have at least one slack mate who has to be told everything starts 15 minutes earlier than actually does to avoid lateness. When fans rocked up to Lusaka festival in June, that mate was the organiser.
With programming advertised to start from 1000, by the time the music really kicked off at 1830 there were roughly 20 people left and half of them were playing soccer on the dancefloor for warmth.
WTF HAPPENED: Foreign invasions
A Russian invasion of their Ukraine homeland wasn’t going to stop organisers of what has to be the longest EDM festival in the world, Kazantip. This celebration of hedonism for Eastern Europe’s party crew started in 20114 and would run for 2-3 weeks every single year.
So when Vladmir Putin decided he wanted in, organisers thought ‘fuck that’ and shipped operations over to Cambodia. We’re not sure if they failed to ‘do business’ as expected in a country consistently rated as one of the most corrupt in the world or if organisers failed to notice the death penalty for drug offences but, needless to say, the Cambodian government wasn’t impressed and the festival was cancelled.
#8 Bloc Festival
WTF HAPPENED: Snoop Dog on a boat
Too many people, too few (and poor quality) speakers and NOT ENOUGH BEER! Authorities cancelled the two-day festival on its first night, shortly after the beer ran out at 2230.
Thousands of people waited hours to enter the dockland venue with a container ship as main stage before getting turned away due to overcrowding. When organisers went into liquidation shortly afterwards, no one got their ticket money back either.
#9 Yorkshire Folk and Blues Festival
WHERE: Krumlin, UK
WTF HAPPENED: Worst ever weather
Reportedly the worst weather to ever hit a UK festival (take that, Glastonbury), by the time it was over more than 60 people had been treated for exposure and one of the organisers disappeared for four days after wandering off “in a daze while freaking out.”
Because, hey, once you’ve booked the headliner and snorted coke off their plus one’s tits, your job as organiser is done, right?
WHERE: Georgia, USA
WTF HAPPENED: Karma
When the gods rained karma for some untold deed down on TomorowWorld organisers, they took a hit on nearly 150, 000 punters as well. Less than a quarter of the 200g ticket holders are able to camp on-site so when organisers banned vehicle access after a downpour, they all had to walk ten miles to get out or sleep in the mud.
And sleep in the mud they did. The festival was cancelled on the third day and people offered a partial refund.
And there we have it, some pretty colossal festival screw-ups! So whatever festival you're heading to this summer, and how badly they botched it, remember - it could get a lot worse!