DumpsterFyre Glee: Why So Many of Your Industry Friends Had a Great Friday

Opinion by Terry Gotham

Unless you were somewhere totally isolated like a private cay 40 miles south of Miami, you couldn’t have missed the deliciously schadenfreude-laden miasma of coverage and commentary surrounding #fyrefestival. This fuck up eclipsed the Pepsi, United, Nivea and all other corporate scandals this year so far by several orders of magnitude. The feed of one Seth Crossno, live-tweeting as William N. Finley IV gave us a window into what happened at the hastily organized pet project of Ja Rule & Billy McFarland. If the name Ja Rule is unfamiliar, please review this clip of him losing a drag race at the beginning of Fast & the Furious 1.

If the name Billy McFarland sounds familiar, I’m sorry you were tricked into joining Magnises, the network for rich posers. Get this, he thought he could fund & produce a destination festival because his last venture was this company that promised members could “unlock their cities and take their lives to the next level.” However, members repeatedly complained that they’d be contacted last minute to be notified that their tickets were not available. That’s right, to quote the Business Insider report directly:

Each time, just before the show (often the day before the event or even the day of) a representative for Magnises would send an email explaining that the startup would no longer be able to provide the purchased ticket and offer to help reschedule the seat for another date.

“They send the same email for every problem, but it’s like fill-in-the-blanks for what the problem is,” the person said.
~Business Insider, 1/24/17

So, Fyre leadership includes a rapper who was an also-ran in 2001 and a guy who pump faked trust fund kids, conning them into joining a fake influencer network. In the grand scheme of things, this is in no way the worst group of people to put together a music festival, but here’s the thing. McFarland has a history of grift and shenanigans, documented wonderfully in a timeline over at EDMSauce. But from a logistics perspective, neither Ja Rule or McFarland would be the ones actually “throwing” shit. Production companies have an army of leads, venue scouts, technical directors, sound people, lighting people, talent people, in addition to the entire hospitality/guest services battalion who are needed to be people people, for the attendees. While many mega-festivals like Coachella or Ultra or Burning Man are colossal endeavors, they’re not unknown quantities.

Festivals aren’t “big risks” for the people who keep their lights on by throwing these things. They are “deeply calculated” ventures with multi-year profitability timelines and insane amounts of market research. Ask any regional Burning Man coordinator. They’ve got a pretty good idea how many tickets they’ll sell, as does a seasoned EDM promoter or talent buyer at a venue. The costs associated with destination festivals are well known, given that there are a dozen successful ones thrown there every year. Holy Ship, Mad Decent and a number of other brands have done pretty well keeping profits ahead of costs when it comes to festivals on cruise ships and despite this year’s black swan event during BPM, Mexico hosts hundreds of thousands of party tourists every year. But, to hear McFarland tell it, they just started a website and marketing campaign before anything else:

We started this website and launched this festival marketing campaign. Our festival became a real thing and took [on] a life of its own. Our next step was to book the talent and actually make the music festival. We went out excited, and that’s when a lot of reality and roadblocks hit….
~Rolling Stone, 4/28/17

To hear these people talk about the massive challenge it was to do site scouting, some napkin math on flights/carrying capacity of the space, labor costs, and the tiniest bit of logistics analysis burned even more deeply when a “notebook” surfaced with planning notes. If they didn’t find it, I’d say they made it up, and even now, I’m still struggling to believe it’s not satire.

The allergic reaction to work that anyone associated with this festival has, speaks to how a lot of people think parties happen: You get a lot of attractive people in a place that has bass and beer and you’re good to go. McFarland continues:

The morning of the festival, a bad storm came in and took down half of our tents and busted water pipes. Guests started to arrive and the most basic function we take for granted in the U.S., we realized, “Wow, we can’t do this.” We were on a rush job to fix everything and guests were arriving and that caused check-in to be delayed. We were overwhelmed and just didn’t have the foresight to solve all these problems.
~Rolling Stone, 4/28/17

So, to sum up, McFarland didn’t check that the site had access to water, power or adequate plumbing for sewage (it didn’t), didn’t check to confirm that his site wasn’t being used for another event that weekend that had been taking place in that location on that date every year for 60 years (it did, the George Town Regatta), and didn’t produce any inclement weather, disaster or hazardous situation plans in case of emergencies. Oh, and they told the important people not to show up when it looked like they didn’t have it under control. Does this sound like the mud-laden disaster of TomorrowWorld 2015? If it doesn’t, it should. These failures have one thing in common: a belief that money and BEAST MODE can replace experience, well paid teams that know what they’re doing and days/weeks on the ground ensuring you’re prepared for every possible problem.

One of the secrets that you learn when you start working with people to throw parties is that the people who do it, especially at the street or community level, do it because they hate bad parties more than most. Sure there’s this idea that if you throw dank parties you’ll be rich, but that’s something you’re disabused of almost immediately. Venue costs, fickle talent, licensing, law enforcement, dude bros, bath salts, and a thousand other things put a damper on any kind of rags-to-riches success story very quickly. Events, underground or retail, may not be brain surgery or translating Middle Egyptian, but they aren’t something you can just throw money at like an app or a promising pop/rap/edm star. And reality reminded us of that on Friday.

This debacle has progressed to the “class action lawsuit & apology tour” segment of any really bad consumer-facing failure, with public statements in Rolling Stone by McFarland and an amazing non-apology apology from Ja Rule (after he was found). The eye-watering $100,000,000 lawsuit announced Monday is going to attempt to teach the pair a very expensive lesson. Honestly, didn’t have to be this way. The people I know who’ve managed throw profitable community-driven parties (especially ones that aren’t 100% licensed and legit) for years are some of the most skilled business people I know. And they’d throw a hilariously good party with even a drop of the capital Ja Rule & DudeBroMcFarland had access to.

By the time the smoke clears on this public lesson in production, how many millions of dollars will have been frittered away to not have a party? How much money was spent compensating Instagram “influencers” instead of DIY artists? How many video cuts of trailers and fantasy play were created instead of paying seasoned producers to create something truly great, not just for the elite, but for anyone who was willing to behave? Way better destination events have been thrown this year, with more than one jokester on Twitter saying they wish they’d gone to BPM. Which gets to the heart of why this commodified pratfall was so viscerally enjoyable to so many people you know.

These events, especially before the bro-ification of EDM, used to be safe spaces, away from the over-produced, airbrushed universe of Instagram & “Fuck Me I’m Famous.” The parties and festivals we all hold dear in our hearts were our refuge away from the exact people who are now throwing these events and bringing in their racist, elitist, “Commodification Rocks!” friends. This is the central reasons why the response was so visceral from so many people who do theater, fine art, marketing, events, music, live performance or any industry lateral to those sectors. We’ve mourned the money changers swarming our temples for over a decade now, and we’ve been able to do nothing to fight back. So when some fresh-faced kid and a washed-up rapper decide they can do what we do, only better, and then fail so hard it becomes the #1 trending topic worldwide on Twitter and earns coverage from the New York Times and every other major, they can’t help but smile. Not because they like to see people fail, but because many of them made similar mistakes, albeit on a much smaller scale. Even more of them have tried to work with Triple-AAA talent over the years, only to be told they charge too much, are too “focused on rules,” are too indie, alternative or not-corporate friendly enough. Any pro worth their salt has touched events that are recognized the world over, and they can see bad ideas from a mile away. NYMag had a great write-up by one of these people.

Maybe now the festival circuit will remember that you can’t jerk skilled tradespeople around, you should make sure your disaster plans are in place, and when the old Union guy says the thing isn’t safe, maybe listen to him. Hopefully we can all spend a little bit of money on parties & festivals that practice this stuff, and let Further Fyre Festivals collapse under the weight of their arrogance and commodification. And now, I leave you with a bunch of Fyre Festival memes, because that was a long article and you’re a champ for sticking it out.

 

LSD, Burning Man, Safety & Susan Sarandon

By Terry Gotham

While there are literally thousands of sober people at Burning Man every year, and how to guides & resources for individuals who choose to not drink or do drugs at Burning Man, we can’t seem to shake the monkey on our back. The class of drugs that seem to be tethered most tightly to Burning Man (besides Margaritas & poorly rolled joints) is psychedelics, acid in particular. For better or worse, it’s as if LSD & Burning Man have become linked. There is something deeply primal about taking certain kinds of drugs and dancing to a beat in the middle of nowhere until dawn. The trope of “taking acid at Burning Man” has been so deeply embedded into the American alternative cultural landscape that there’s an extensively upvoted list of answers for the “What should you think about before trying LSD for the first time and doing so at Burning Man?” question on Quora.

Not just because of the psytrancers or the hippies either. With more and more of the tech landscape believing psychedelics can generate “out of the box thinking” or a predeliction for black turtle necks, the merging between the technorati, the 1% & Black Rock City will most likely remain psychedelic. There are dozens of trip reports from the playa and with reporters being granted expanded access to Burning Man, the potential for your private LSD-drenched art walk to make it into The Atlantic or Salon grows every year. But, that doesn’t mean that people aren’t having resonant, powerful experiences on playa consuming this stuff, or even merely orbiting those that do. Continue reading

Why We Burn: Tree (Stephan)

(After talking to two dope couples, I wanted to broaden my horizons. I met Tree at a wedding in a castle in Austria. After he helped me DJ the afterparty, we became fast friends. He agreed to speak to me and talk about Burning Man & burner culture from the perspective of someone a little farther away than the East Coast.) By Terry GothamStephan

1. How was the journey to Burning Man from Amsterdam?
Great, but BM was part of a larger road trip for us, so we only did Vegas – BRC – Vegas especially for this. It was quite the hassle though, with having to arrange a car and buy everything we had to have. It was also our first burn, so the shopping was a bit more extensive because of that I guess.

2. Are you a burner/party person by trade? Or do you have a default world day job to pay for your travels?
Who the hell is able to get paid for partying?! Anyway, no. I’m pretty picky about my festivals, and wouldn’t want to do it all the time because there’s so much more to life. So yes, I have a default world job. Fortunately I’m self-employed, so I am able to try to incorporate as much of the burn-philosophy into it as possible.

Continue reading

Where Did The SHIFT Pod Come From?

A guest post from Christian, leader of SHIFT Camp, and inventor of the SHIFT Pod. There were three hundred of these on the Playa this year, and so far reports back from Burners have been overwhelmingly favorable.

Screenshot 2015-10-11 16.20.24 Screenshot 2015-10-11 16.20.10 Screenshot 2015-10-11 16.19.24

I think it is great that Burners are innovating to make their camps better, and sharing their innovations with the rest of the community.

Here’s what SHIFT Camp (a registered non-profit) is about:

SHIFT is based on the following ideals

Walk in peace and with grace.
Do good unto others, without judgment, or expectation.
Love thy neighbor, and love thyself.
Practice forgiveness.
Leave places and people better than you found them.
Be proactive and participate in life.

The ethos at SHIFT it to provide the ‘set and setting’ for people to have a shift experience; a shift in paradigm.  How can you contribute to this effort? How can you create this for others and how can you engage and create this space for yourself? We ask you do things you would not normally do. Get dirty, get involved, participate, pick up trash, fill your own RV and wipe your own ass.

This is not just another weekend at the disco.

SHIFT brings together art and artists from all over the world, sound and stage, hosts talks, and provides fun experiences for to help foster those SHIFTs or “Ahhhh haaa” moments. SHIFT is also active in the local community and is collecting, cleaning and donating bikes to send to kids in Cuba in 2015!

SHIFT supports art and outreach projects all over the world.

How can you make your own SHIFT experience?


by C W:

Where did the SHIFTPOD come from?

I run a camp out at Burning Man called SHIFT and have been burning since 1992. 23 years if my math is right. Prior to this I threw parties in LA and the first rave parties in Seattle. I love the EDM and BM culture and am proud to have been there from the very beginning.

Last year at our camp I found myself in a friends foam yurt, on a couch, looking around it was all decked out, with A/C, refer and a bed. I stomped my feet on the ground and said “it feels really good to be on the ground”.

My first burn I slept in the van, on the van and under the van, I had only a tee shirt and shorts, some water, bread, peanut butter and jelly and a couple of bottles of Jack Daniels. Tickets were $60 at the gate, and the population was less than 5000. Things were much different then, rough and raw, I had a massive SHIFT experience. Over the years I ended up in RVs which are high off the ground, disconnected and wiggly under every step. Being back on the ground felt very good. It felt solid and I felt reconnected with where my journey started.

I thought “I want to be in a yurt next year!” I then learned of the time required to build it, to put it up every year and to store it. Not to mention the $200 in tape required every year.

There has to be a better way. I run a huge camp, I don’t have time, I don’t have space, and all that waste every year doesn’t feel right. Tents suck and let all the dust in. They don’t hold up in the wind. They take too much time to set up and most are too small. There has to be another way.

After the burn, a few months later I started working on a ideas, sketches, and prototypes, re-engineering, testing and patent work. The SHIFTPOD was born. They really do set up in less than one minute, twenty eight seconds and strike in less than 3 minutes. They are large roomy, insulated against the heat of sun, easy to store and move.

We set SHIFTPODs up as a fundraising project for camp and began the process of producing them. We distributed our first 300 SHIFTPODs to eager donors and delivered them just before and at the 2015 burn. We were supported by Millennials, Boomers, Hippies and Hipsters, Rich getting out of RVs and Poor upgrading out of dusty tents.

Because of the demand (and exposure in Burners.Me) we were also able to send 5 SHIFTPODS ($4000+shipping) to Nepal to help earthquake victims (and 5 more to be sent as we can place them), and we were able to bring back 15 of the used PODs to offer the victims of the Lake County fires. We were also able to support our camp and our bikes to Cuba project.

One of the huge bummers of Burning Man 2015 was the wind and the dust. For us it was the best possible test for the SHIFTPODs. Yahoo reported 30-40MPH sustained winds with gusts to 90MPH, other more official reports on the playa said 50MPH. In the words of one of our new SHIFTPOD owners, “My SHIFTPOD shed the wind like it was nothing”. The response has been overwhelming and positive. The size, the set up time, the durability and mobility… all confirmed.

Now, we are poised to do more for those in need. We are setting up a program to ship SHIFTPODS to refugee camps and people in need. For every 20 SHIFTPODs sold we will ship one to a family in need. Over time we hope to get this down to every 10 SHIFTPODs sold but we have to start somewhere, right?

Live your life, party in a POD and help give someone in need a home at the same time. That’s a Win/Win in my book.

If you want to help let us know! We are looking for positive, proactive people to work with as we take the project forward. If you are into getting it done and making big things happen, please get in touch.

Lasting, a big shout out and THANK YOU all in caps to BURNERS.ME for getting the story out and being directly responsible for more than 80 SHIFTPOD donations. Also, thank you to all of our supporters and people who took the risk with us. We appreciate you.

Please send photos of you and your SHIFTPODs! Post them on Instagram! #shiftpods And please like us on Facebook! Help spread the word!

Lets have fun and make a difference!

Christian
#shiftpods


Burners.Me:

Well done Christian – I get what you’re saying about the feeling of being on the Playa, instead of isolated in an RV. Sometimes I just bite the bullet and just give myself Playa foot, it’s a way of remembering…

Glad we could help and I am most happy about 20 people getting relief homes in Nepal and Lake County. This is Burners making a difference in the world, I hope BMOrg applauds and promotes it too.

Other innovations have come from the Burn already like Google, Solar City, Google Maps, Google Earth, Firechat, The Simpsons…it’s great to see some non-profit ones emerging now too. Because that’s what Burning Man is all about, right? Let’s hope some Burners.Me readers step up to assist SHIFT with this vision, there is a lot of talent and passion in this community that I’m sure would love to get behind something that is now proven and Burner-endorsed, rather than an idea written on a hipster whiteboard in the Mission.


shift pod mommy

Dabs, Wax & BHO: What The Kids Are Smoking These Days

Image via Buzzfeed

At certain points in the history of drugs, there have been pivot points. Moments in time when the way a drug was consumed changed, altering the path of the habit for those that use it afterwards. The synthesis of Crystal Meth forever changed the population of amphetamine users, as the introduction of heroin to ameliorate the morphine epidemic changed opiate users. The 80’s in America would have been very different if no one had ever thought to create crack from it. We’re now seeing a similar shift, albeit from a much safer drug.

If you live in California, Colorado or Washington state, you’ve probably heard of this stuff, but if not, this might be something new. Butane Hash Oil, more commonly known as Wax or Shatter, has replaced the Hash of your day with something a bit more powerful & definitely not sprinkled on top of your bong. This stuff is cruising past even the most potent strains of “flower” (as regular pot is now being called) in THC/potency, with some dabs containing 70-90% THC. And not only is it something you can bury yourself in a couch doing at home, but modern technology has created on the go apparatus that allows the more privileged or networked among us to vape on the go. Continue reading