Fyre Fest V Fire Fest: which was hotter?

Written by frtyfve Team

In a battle between Minecraft nerds and fake Instagram models, who came out on top?

Image credit: Netflix Cover/Minecraft

This week the internet exploded as tales of Fyre Fest were rescued from the ashes. A double-header documentary drop (thanks Netflix and Hulu) told the embarrassing and cringe-worthy tale of Billy McFarland’s fraudulent luxury festival - tipped as “the greatest party that never happened”.

A week prior, thousands of miles away on the internet, a group of game enthusiasts successfully hosted Minecraft’s first ever virtual music festival. With their names the only thing in common, we wanted to find out which festival is the ultimate flame-inspired weekender?

Venue

Venue

Venue

I guess the key selling point of Fyre Fest was that instead of being in a muddy Somerset field, or in a Southern Californian desert, it was hosted on a ‘remote island’ in the Bahamas. Ticketholders were promised golden sand and turquoise water beaches, exclusive villas, private planes, yachts and wellness activities.

Instead, they arrived to find a sea of Federal Emergency tents erected on an underdeveloped corner of Exuma Island. Being the Bahamas, I can only assume that blue water and yellow sand is pretty much guaranteed. Everything else was quite clearly not.

Fire Festival guests, on the other hand, were faced with a duality, both an IRL and virtual experience of the festival. Half of their Fire journey was theirs to craft; gaming chair or sofa, curtains open or curtains closed, lights on or light off, headphones or speakers etc. The other half of their experience was designed by a huge team of volunteer developers, graphic designers and in-house A&Rs. A virtual spectacle, Fire Festival featured multiple stages, an art gallery featuring scanned in pieces of work and a decorative environment like no other. Festival goers could explore the virtual biome at their own pace, taking in the LGBTQ+ rainbow, plant and motionless passenger jet emblazoned world, between DJ sets.

Winner: Fire Festival

Lineup

Lineup

Lineup

Fyre Festival boasted a slightly discordant but impressive lineup, with big hitters including G.O.O.D Music Family (Kanye, Pusha T, Teyana Taylor), Major Lazer and Blink 182 featuring alongside, Lil Yachty, Skepta and Kaytranada. Fire’s lineup was a lot less star-studded, with sets from Ekali, Hudson Mohawke, ARTY, Luca Lush and a load of underground DJs and producers.

Sadly, the day that guests were supposed to arrive at Fyre Festival, Blink-182 announced their cancellation in a tweet, claiming that they were confident that the festival setup was not sufficient for their pop-punk diehards.

Having delved into the archived YouTube videos and Soundcloud recordings from Fire Festival, I cannot say that I was overly thrilled by the sound quality, with eclectic sets dubbed over the usually annoying Minecraft background music. Whilst there were a few gem sets to be heard (see SLEEPYCATT), the majority sounded a bit messy.

Despite this, I do commend Fire Festival, for utilising its platform to promote underground artists, whilst catering to its audience with sets from A.G. Cook et al. Now, in case you’ve got this far without realising... *SPOILER ALERT*... Fyre Festival didn’t manage to pull together one set for its paying guests. So sadly, this is a bit like comparing a Nandos to one of those proper French restaurants your great auntie takes you to, except that the menu on offer at the French restaurant doesn’t actually exist (always go with the Nandos).

Winner: Fire Festival

Cost

Cost

Cost

Fyre Festival was luxury in offering and equally as extravagant on price. Ticket prices ranged between $1,200 and $100,000, with a plethora of festival add-on packages available to its frivolous clientele. I don’t want to seem too envious of those that have $1,200 to $100,000 to splash on a big weekend with the lads in the Bahamas, but $100k is pretty fucking expensive.

Fire Festival on the other hand. Free. Zero. Null. As long as you had the java version of the Minecraft game ($35), you were free to join in on the fun, without shelling out any real or virtual coinage. Those without the game could also stream the festival live from the Fire Festival website for free. Beautiful.

It gets better. The festival organisers donated US$1750.97 – all profits from the event – to the Trevor Project, an organisation focusing on suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth.

Winner: Fire Festival

Attendees

Attendees

Attendees

Limiting my comparative abilities here, I have spent very little time with both groups of festival goers. At Fyre, you have the entitled minority, the trust-fund kids, who as comedian Ron Funches pointed out, kind of deserve to be mocked for spending thousands of dollars to see Blink 182. “That is Darwinism at its finest”, he joked.

You see, Fyre Festival was born out of pseudo-celeb promises; Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Hayley Bieber (was Baldwin) were among those paid to promote the festival. Rich kids flocked to buy tickets, expecting to wine, dine and party with an elite group of mid-to-late 20s. You can imagine the googly-eyed blue-tick chasing daydreams which inspired a ticket purchase to the biggest flop event of the 21st century. The audience: buff lads and bikini-clad girls, eager to grow their Instagram following by thousands.

On the other hand, Minecraft users are a really diverse bunch, with mutual interests, you know, they’re just doing their thing. I had a few mates at college that played the game; a few were into SoundCloud rap and the others enjoyed Dungeons & Dragons Club.

From the live stream I’ve seen, festival goers were pogoing synonymously, chatting about music and mods (the user-created type, not the scooter lot). I was a little thrown by the swords, but Minecraft seems to be quite a pleasant world. Fyre, on the other hand, became quite the opposite (see atmosphere).

Winner: Fire Festival

Catering

Catering

Catering

Meals from celebrity chefs would probably be quite a pull for me - perhaps the only element of Fyre Festival which could have justified its price tag. However, once guests arrived and the camp was deemed not ready, everyone was taken to a bar and plied with tequila… Gazza style. Euro ‘96, head tilted back, liquid poured in, like a Zante booze cruise - catering with a panic button, as if intoxication was going to solve the forthcoming horrors. Then came the infamous tweet, the cheese sandwich.

Now my biggest bone to pick with virtual festivals, aside from not actually talking to anyone or hearing anything IRL, is the significant lack of taste and smell. Gimme fried onions, pizza, falafel and houmous on charcoal bread, anything. Similarly to our venue discussion above, Fire Festival goers consumed whatever they could be bothered to make. Dominoes probably enjoyed an increase in orders over the festival. Is that a problem? No, not really, it’s just a bit colourless.

The only saving grace from this resurfacing of the Fyre failure is the $120,000 raised via GoFundMe for caterer Maryanne Rolle. Following an exodus from the island after Fyre Festival was cancelled, an army of local staff who had fought to save the party turned on the organisers after they realised they weren’t going to see a penny for their labour. Maryanne opted to pay staff from her savings, to keep mouths fed, losing $50,000 of her own money in the process.

Whilst I’m sure Maryanne’s food is class and as much as I’m happy that Netflix’s audience clearly have a kind heart, the majority of festival goers got nothing to eat; so for that reason, the convenience of a kettle and a pot noodle has to win.

Winner: Fire Festival

Atmosphere

Atmosphere

Atmosphere

As touched upon when discussing attendees, Fyre Festival became a bit of a horror show. When it became clear that villas were actually emergency relief tents and that celebrity catering was a dry cheese sarnie, Lord of the Flies inspired chaos ensued (ironic bc they even had pigs on the beach in the festival promo trailer). Guests started claiming tents and hoarding toilet roll. Some took it to extremes, urinating on mattresses and slashing tents surrounding them to avoid neighbours moving in. Avoid rich people during the apocalypse, that’s all I’ve learnt here.

Aside from slightly aggressive pogoing from some Minecraft users, their behaviour seemed to be rather normal for people that communicate via pixels. In fact, over 5.3k Minecraft players enjoyed the festival, with 87,000 others listening to or engaging in streams of the event. YouTube comment sections, Reddit polls and forums remain littered with excited dialogue surrounding an innovative and disruptive answer to the music festival in the digital space.

Winner: Fire Festival

Concluding thoughts

There seems to be a clear winner here. Whilst Minecraft’s virtual world doesn’t feel like the natural home for a music festival, the DIY and disruptive approach executed by the team behind Fire Festival is inspiring. Conversely, Fyre Festival was tragic, in nearly every way.

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