On its website, the music festival VestiVille describes itself quixotically as "a moral law... it is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful." Those words are pretty ironic after the festival, which was supposed to take place in Lommel, Belgium from June 28th to 30th, ended up being a disaster, full of fraud and abuse of trust. It was ultimately cancelled before it even began, leaving many paying customers stranded and frustrated, and bringing comparisons to the ill-fated Fyre Festival (due in part to the fact that Ja Rule was on both lineups).
With huge hip-hop stars set to headline, the three-day festival attracted revellers from all over the world and was hyped up on social media right up to the day it was supposed to happen. The promotional videos created the sense of the music experience of a lifetime.
But people started noticing something was amiss after A$AP Rocky announced on Twitter that he was cancelling his performance due to “security and infrastructure concerns relating to the production of the show.” Then, Bob Nijs, the mayor of Lommel, officially decided to not let the festival begin. The mayor stated to BBC that "there were no emergency exits, the stages were not safe and they only had about 30 security guards. It was a difficult decision to make, but I didn't want to be the mayor to say, 'Sorry, your son or your daughter died at this festival.'"
Although the festival was cancelled by the mayor before it even began, many people found out via social media once they had already arrived, leaving them stranded in the sun, with no food or water or easy transportation home. One festival-goer made a statement online saying: “The fact that you left thousands of people stood in the boiling sun with no drinks, no toilets and no shelter and didn't have the human decency to even announce sooner the festival was cancelled is disgusting.”
On top of people being stuck in the sun, unsure of what was going on, they were also left unsure if they would be refunded for their tickets and other expenses. The original tickets were being sold for €78.85 for one day and €202.60 for a three-day pass. Tickets on Eventbrite were costing as much as €470, and some guests had also bought VIP tables and villas. Although the organisation has since announced that they will be reimbursing people for their festival tickets, this doesn't include the cost of travel, accommodations and daily expenses, which some noted had cost them upwards of £2,000.
The Brussels Times reported that three of the organisers of the event have been charged with fraud involving false invoices, forgery, money laundering and abuse of trust. Although the full details haven't been released, the charges are reported to be brought up by many of the festival’s suppliers, who were not paid.
Although the festival was a very unhappy experience for most, some were able to break into the event, bring in some beers and make the most out of a bad situation.
The details of this event might remind you of something. Once videos and reports of what happened at Vestiville started to surface, many people drew similarities to the 2017 Fyre Festival, which went viral after two documentaries were made on Netflix and Hulu about it.
Although people at VestiVille didn't get stranded on a remote island in the Bahamas, they were stranded far from their accommodations without assistance on how to get home, leading to hundreds of people staying on the festival grounds overnight. At Fyre, attendees were similarly left with little information on what was going on and were placed in unsafe conditions, after investing thousands to attend.
Many found it unfathomable that something like the crazy story of the Fyre Festival, which involved so much manipulation and criminal activity, could happen again. However, history seems to have repeated itself and specifically for one man, in particular, Ja Rule.
Ja Rule was included on the star-studded line-up at VestiVille along with Cardi B, A$AP Rocky, Migos, Future, Jason Derulo and many others. He was also revealed to have a great deal of influence and input into the Fyre Festival as the co-founder and a performer on the line-up, though he was never sentenced to jail time like the other co-founder, Billy McFarland, who is facing up to six years for charges that the organisers of Vestiville may be similarly facing.
Once again, a festival overpromises and underdelivers. Maybe next time if Ja Rule’s name is associated with a festival, you'd be wise to steer clear.