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In the Future Every Festival Will Be Terrified of Being the New Fyre Fest

A document dump from yesterday in the legal battle between the apparently doomed Woodstock 50 and the event’s erstwhile investor Dentsu Aegis painfully details how Woodstock’s organizers ignored recommendations from partners and regulators about things like the festival’s proper size, budget, number of stages, transportation plans, and other pesky details that may come in handy when inviting tens of thousands of baby boomers to come camp in upstate New York. One exhibit in particular offers an amusing look at just what type of worst case scenario people who plan these super-events fear: embarrassing tweets.

Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang wrote the following in a February 28 email in which he declined to reduce the festival’s capacity to 65,000, despite the production company Superfly’s insistence that Lang’s desire for a 90,000-plus event was not safe or plausible:

The concern that being shuttled for 20 minutes, or that attendees will be so put off by walking to their campsites that they will light up social media with complaints, is just ridiculous. They will have an amazing Woodstock experience and will be talking about that for years.

Disregarding the fact that long walks and shuttle rides were just one of many reasons experts recommended a smaller Woodstock 50, the email reveals one lasting impact of that fateful weekend in 2017 when Ja Rule and Billy McFarland  stranded a bunch of sprites in the Bahamas. Festival organizers know that any mishaps will be documented in real time on social media and inevitably compared to everyone’s favorite live-event scandal that landed its chief grifter in federal prison.

This happened in March after bus problems and an unfortunate fire at Ultra Music Festival stranded thousands on Florida’s Virginia Key. News of the logistical nightmare spread on social media with the hashtag #FyreFestival2. In February, understaffing, hours-long lines, and overcrowding earned the LA Beer and World Barbecue Festival the nickname the “Fyre Festival of Meat.” A fire at Coachella last month sparked similar jokes. And in the end, even Michael Lang’s confidence could not stop Woodstock 50 from being dubbed Fyre Fest 2.0 by the Daily Beast earlier this month after the event’s financial and permit problems and missed deadlines came to light.

We have the power now, let us not abuse it.