The Fyre Festival: A Hilarious Repeat of a 2014 Tumblr Disaster


The Fyre Festival is an epic mess of Instagram rich kids versus bad planning. It could have been avoided by remembering Tumblr’s Dashcon Ball Pit Fiasco.

Here’s the breakdown of what happened at Fyre Festival, according to the New York Times:

"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."

Of course, since this event was created by and for social media, it spawned some truly lethal memes:

Ok, so the fancy version of Coachella is the biggest fail of all time. So what?

Well, something about Fyre’s lack of information, overhype, utter failure, and meme-able demise feels very familiar. Especially to us internet historians. As we all know, those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. So the Fyre Festival could have learned a lot from the 2014 Dashcon Ball Pit Disaster.

If you’ve never heard of Dashcon, then you probably aren’t on Tumblr. (Which, to be honest, is probably a good thing.) I’ll spare you the cringey details, but basically Tumblr was a weird place before 2014. It was half aesthetic blogs and half fandom disaster.

People drew fanart of the Onceler from The Lorax making out with other versions of himself, and nothing was complete without a stupid Supernatural gif. These were dark, pre-meme times.

People on Tumblr prided themselves as being angsty, reclusive, or “misunderstood”. They were often just nerdy teens who didn’t have a lot of offline friends, so things like Tumblr Prom became popular. (Look it up at your own risk….it’s pretty sad.)

At some point, some users suggested there be a “Tumblr convention” in the style of a comic convention. And someone actually started organizing it. These were the days where some teens made lots of money on the site, so there might even be celebrities just like a real con.

Much like the Fyre Festival, Dashcon was dead on arrival.

They asked for extra money because of issues with paying for the hotel, even crowdfunding at the event itself. Big guests like the cast of Welcome to Night Vale weren’t paid, much like how Blink-182 and Tyga dropped out of Fyre last minute. Just like Fyre, for days people didn’t know what was going on. There were conflicting reports and money was being lost by the minute. (You can read about the entire Dashcon fiasco here.)

Since the event was made for social media, the failures happened online in real time. It quickly became a meme that a “perk” of helping Dashcon reach its necessary extra $17,000 was an “extra hour in the ball pit”. To this day, the ball pit is synonymous with lameness and the Dashcon-era Tumblr mentality itself.

Both Fyre Festival and Dashcon were created on the premise that some form of social media is a community. Did their failures prove that premise wrong?

If Fyre Festival is Instagram’s Dashcon, what does this mean? The insular, cringey, nerd culture of Tumblr didn’t go away, it just became the post-modern meme factory that we know today. Will Fyre Festival change Instagram’s community culture as well? Or did meeting in person, taking an intangible “community” and aesthetic from a social media platform and making it corporeal, break the magic?

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Rich kids trying to hang with Instagram celebrities saw that a fancy music festival is just a shitty event on an island. Nerdy teens and young adults trying to band together offline realized a social network doesn’t translate into a full-blown comic convention.

Maybe that’s the crux of huge public event failures like this – you can’t base an event on likes alone.