5 Music Festivals That Ended in Disaster

Music festivals often result in large crowds, which can be difficult to manage.
Music festivals often result in large crowds, which can be difficult to manage.

Large-scale events like music festivals demand proper planning and precise attention to detail, as errors can lead to devastating financial loss and irreprable degradation of reputation. Several things can go wrong, ranging from unexpected weather to financial constraints. Sometimes a combination of these factors of more can push the festival from mere disappointment to an upmost disaster, a range of outcomes experienced by the festivals outlined below.

5. Dashcon

Schaumburg, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, was home to the first (and to this day, last) DashCon convention from July 11 to 13, 2014. The convention was mainly organized to cater to the users of Tumblr, a popular blogging service. However, the convention was plagued by mismanagement from its very conception. The festival's dying note occured when celebrity guests opted out after they were told by hotels they had to pay their own bills. The convention faced financial difficulties which made the organizers resort to an emergency fundraising drive. As a result of the festivals chaotic disorganization, ticket-holders were compensated with an extra hour in a "ball pit", an effort which was greatly ridiculed as a feeble attempt at compensation that was frugal to the point of insult. The failure of Dashcon can ultimately be blamed on unprofessionalism that was met with a vision too big for its means.

4. Fyre Festival

The most recent entry on our list to have occurred, the Fyre Festival was the brainchild of the American rapper Ja Rule and entrepreneur Billy McFarland. The two chose an isolated island in the Bahamas to hold a concert in 2017 which was marketed as a cultural moment of pure luxury. In keeping with its exclusive high-profile promise, it was promoted by several famous models on social media.

In an abrupt turn of events, the festival was canceled on its first day by an overwhelmed management team. Guests who were promised a once-in-a-lifetime superstar experience were surprised to find tents similar to disaster relief tents when they arrived at the venue. The guests further complained of being fed bread and cheese in lieu of the top-notch food that had been advertised. In keeping with a theme found often on this list, the island lacked the proper infrastructure to handle a big crowd. The organizers admitted to being in far over their heads, and made arrangements to send all visitors home - arrangements that many stated did not arrive fast enough. The disgrace of the festival was such that the government of the Bahamas apologize on behalf of their country, even though they had no direct involvement in the event.

3. TomorrowWorld

The TomorrowWorld Festival had held its inaugural year in 2013 in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia. However, by the third edition of the festival in 2015, the festival was standing on sinking ground, both figuratively and literally, as copious amounts of rain had fallen on festival grounds. Not only did the rain render the fairgrounds muddy and unusable, but it also blocked access roads to the festival itself. This posed great concern to management, as it not only limited the transportation services that had been promised to attendees, but also posed a serious safety concern. Taxi and Uber drivers exploited the situation by hiking fare prices back to Atlanta. The organizers further closed off the venue to non-campers on Sunday, leaving many outraged and stranded.

2. Woodstock '99

An estimated 400,000 revellers attended the Woodstock '99 festival held in Rome, New York, a location around two hours away from the original Woodstock grounds of the 1960s, which it was intended to emulate. Woodstock '99 featured a somewhat eclectic lineup of artists from genres such as rock, punk rock, rap metal, and hip hop.

It was not only the festival's scattered vision that led to its failure. The festival grounds were located at the Griffiss Air Force Base, which offered festival-goers a sizzling tarmac instead of trees and grass. This was particularly uncomfortable when the temperature of the weekend reached a high of 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). The attendees were met with highly priced commodities from onsite vendors, including exorbiant water prices. Although free fountains were technically provided, they were shockingly impractical, with long lineups and unsanitary locations near portable washrooms. The number of washrooms themselves were also comepletely inadequate. It was not long before the crowd became unruly. Numerous sexual assaults were reported over the weekend, many of which took place in the middle of the crowds while bands played. The event's unruly atmosphere cumulated with members of the crowd setting fire to festival propety, reducing trailers, booths, and portable toilets to cinders. Footage of crowd members dancing around the burning piles haunts the history of large-scale music festivals to this day.

1. Altamont Free Concert

The Altamont Speedway in California, United States was the site for the Altamont Free Concert on December 6, 1969. As the rock concert was held during the counterculture era, it was intended to be a testament to this time. It attracted an estimated 300,000 people and featured bands and artists such as the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The Rolling Stones wanted to end their 1969 American Tour with a free concert, again inspired by the time-spotting events of Woodstock. The Altamont Free Concert was announced just four days before the festival was set to take place, a decision that set the tone for the frantic series of events that were to occur.

You guessed it - the concert at Altamont was not well organized. However, although this could have led to simple disappointment, the addition of a few other factors resulted instead in devastating consequences. The management of the Rolling Stones had made the decision to hire members of the Hell's Angels bicycle gang to handle security for the event, an agreement that is rumored to have been sealed with the promise $500 worth of beer as payment. By the end of the festival, four festival attendees had died, including 18 year old Meredith Hunter, who was stabbed to death. The other deaths were caused by one fan reportedly drowning while on LSD, and two others being hit by a car. It was the tragic events of this year that led to the Altamont Free Concert to be dubbed "rock and roll's worst day".


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