Why do festivals keep ending in disaster?

From EDM concerts to Burning Man, large-scale events are running into big problems.

While there’s been plenty of buzz about concerts going right this summer — shout out to Beyoncé and Taylor Swift — there’s also been much talk about events going really wrong.

The silhouette of a concert crowd against a purple background with lightning.

We can’t cover failed events without first mentioning the granddaddy of all bamboozles: the 2017 Fyre Festival, AKA the luxury Bahamian festival turned dumpster fire.

But a cultural obsession, a couple of documentaries, and a sentencing later… and we’re still watching festivals combust:

  • At this year’s Burning Man, 70k+ people were trapped in the muddy Nevada desert after heavy rain hit the campgrounds.
  • Attendees of the 2023 Electric Zoo festival filed a class-action lawsuit against the organizers for multiple last-minute cancellations and closures.
  • Blue Ridge Rock Festival in Virginia went south as extreme weather caused confusion and cancellations.
  • Thousands were evacuated from the World Scout Jamboree in South Korea due to a heat wave that left many seeking medical treatment.

And sometimes, true tragedy strikes large venues, like at the Astroworld concert in 2021 or, more recently, at the Brooklyn Mirage.

Why is this happening?

In part: more people, more problems. Gathering thousands of attendees together safely requires perfecting the logistics of everything from transportation and bathrooms to emergency services and security.

Plus, many large-scale events are held in remote locations to accommodate large crowds, meaning all infrastructure must be brought in and set up — essentially building cities from scratch, and inviting opportunities for things to go awry.

The rotten cherry on top? An increase in extreme weather conditions are making event planning even less predictable.

The blame game

While labor and material costs go up and consumer spending goes down, large events are left to make it work.

Electric Zoo blamed its cancellations on supply chain issues, writing: “The global supply chain disruptions have impacted industries worldwide, and, sadly, our beloved festival has not been immune.”

On the other hand, Burning Man organizers said there was no need for all the “fuss,” and that the situation was under control.

All we know for sure is that you won’t catch us at Fyre Fest 2.0.

Topics: Entertainment

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