Fyre Festival organizers Ja Rule and Billy McFarland were hit with a $100-million lawsuit Monday, claiming they tried to “fleece attendees for hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Attendees of the disastrous concert for rich kids claim the festival wasn’t just fraudulently advertised—it also was dangerous.
“The festival’s lack of adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care created a dangerous and panicked situation among attendees,” the suit claims. “Festival-goers survived on bare rations, little more than bread and a slice of cheese,” and had to “escape the elements” in “small clusters of ‘FEMA tents,’ exposed on a sand bar, that were soaked and battered by rain.”
Mark Geragos, the celebrity lawyer who defended Winona Ryder in her infamous shoplifting suit, is representing the plaintiffs who are seeking class action status. Representatives for Fyre Media did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Accommodations on the island were substandard because organizers had failed to pay contractors on time, the lawsuit claims, saying Ja Rule (real name: Jeffrey Atkins) and McFarland “had been aware for months that their festival was dangerously under-equipped and posed a serious danger to anyone in attendance.” (Starr Catering Group told Buzzfeed their contract with the festival had been terminated in April.)
McFarland and Ja Rule allegedly “began personally reaching out to performers and celebrities” before the festival began “and warned them not to attend,” the suit claims. During this time, they did not do the same for the festival’s less high-profile attendees, some of whom had spent upwards of $100,000 on VIP packages. Some would-be attendees didn’t even make it to the island, as airlines began to cancel their flights to Exuma “due to over capacity on the island” before the festival began.
Blink-182 issued a statement and pulled out of the festival on Thursday, saying they weren’t “confident that we would have what we need to give you the quality of performances we always give fans.”
Attendees were eventually removed from the island, but the trouble didn’t end there: people were reportedly locked in a hot waiting area while waiting for their plane, and one person passed out while the group was locked in the building, the suit claims.
The Fyre Festival’s promotional materials billed it as a sort of Coachella for the rich: attendees were promised luxury accommodations, five-star food and drink, and a treasure hunt with prizes including jewelry and cash—all on an allegedly private Bahamian island formerly owned by Pablo Escobar. Influencers and Instagram models including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Emily Ratajkowski promoted the fest, and people began snatching up tickets before the lineup was even announced. Tickets started at $1,200 and the most luxurious packages cost more than $100,000 per person.
Instead of being a luxurious beach vacation-slash-music festival, however, the Fyre Festival was a well-documented disaster. Pictures of empty nylon “FEMA tents,” sad cold cut sandwiches, and lockers without locks quickly spread on social media. The lawsuit described it as “closer to ‘The Hunger Games’ or ‘Lord of the Flies’ than Coachella,” with nary an Instagram model in sight — and it turns out that Pablo Escobar never even owned the island, as advertised in the festival’s promotional materials.
Those who didn’t attend the festival mocked attendees on social media for dropping thousands of dollars on a music festival that seemed doomed from the start, but the suit makes some serious allegations. Fyre Festival was allegedly promoted as a “cashless event” where attendees could pay for everything using their festival wristbands instead of bringing cash. As a result, attendees who made it to the island were stranded— they couldn’t pay for cabs or buses to get them to the airport, court papers claim.
McFarland, who co-organized the festival with Ja Rule and also owns the “experiential benefits platform” Magnises, took to Rolling Stone to blame the disarray on bad weather and a lack of planning.
“We thought we were making timeframes that were correct,” McFarland wrote in the piece, published on Friday. “We were a little naïve in thinking for the first time we could do this ourselves. Next year, we will definitely start earlier. The reality is, we weren't experienced enough to keep up.”
Ja Rule apologized to attendees and said his priority was getting everyone off the island safely. “My partners and I wanted this to be an amazing event, it was NOT A SCAM as everyone is reporting,” Ja Rule told Rolling Stone. “I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT ... but I'm taking responsibility I'm deeply sorry to everyone who was inconvenienced by this.” The festival promised to give all 2017 attendees free tickets to next year’s festival, which will reportedly be held stateside.