Originally posted at 10:25 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29:
An idea that originated as an insomnia-fueled joke at 2 a.m. has, in less than a week, sparked interest in thousands of people from all over the country.
No, we're not talking about Fyre Festival, the ill-fated music fest that is the subject of two dueling documentaries recently released on Netflix and Hulu.
We're talking about a Fyre Fest LARP — that's "Live Action Role Playing" for the novice — proposed for Detroit's own island getaway, Belle Isle.
"I meant it to be a joke, to be honest," says Michelle Birawer of Harsh Tokes Booking. "It’s becoming its own thing without me releasing any information. It's becoming a social experiment, but a positive one!"
Birawer started a Facebook event titled Fyre Fest LARP on Belle Isle on Friday, Jan. 25 with the description: "Come celebrate the two year anniversary of the greatest music festival farce of ALL TIME! Details TBA." A week later, no details have been added, but Birawer says the page's analytics show the event has reached more than 250,000 people. As of this writing, nearly 6,000 people have marked that they are interested in attending.
To be absolutely clear, the proposed event has not yet been made official. A spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, which operates the island park, says that Birawer has not yet reached out for approval, and just arbitrarily chose a tentative date of Sunday, April 28. The spokesman says events like this need to be vetted, and that the department typically would not approve an event like this.
In many ways, then, the Fyre Festival LARP is already shaping up to mirror the actual doomed Fyre Festival very closely.
The actual Fyre Festival was supposed to take place in the Bahamas over two "transformative weekends" during the spring of 2017. Tickets to the "immersive" music festival were thousands of dollars, offering luxury accommodations that included a flight from Miami on a VIP-configured Boeing 737 and eco-friendly "glamping" domes. (One package offered use of a luxury villa for $25,000.) Festival-goers were promised white sand beaches and the opportunity to rub shoulders on a chartered yacht with social media "influencers" like Hailey Baldwin and Bella Hadid, with five-star catering, booze, and endless opportunities to look and feel like an A-lister. Artists like Major Lazer, G.O.O.D. Music Family, and Blink-182 were set to headline.
Here's a video of how promoters pitched the fest:
The brainchild of alleged life-long scammer Billy McFarland and irrelevant Ashanti collaborator Ja Rule, the Fyre Fest had all the ingredients to be the ultimate flex. Before anything was secured, McFarland orchestrated an elaborate promo video and a social media campaign that featured a mysterious orange square, which spread like, well, wildfire thanks to celebrity endorsements from the likes of Kendall Jenner.
In reality, the festival wound up turning out to be the most disastrous music festival since Woodstock '99. Its well-heeled guests showed up to rain-soaked FEMA tents, lame cheese sandwiches, and zero explanation as to why they had been dumped in a parking lot without their luggage. None of the artists performed, and a lawsuit was filed against McFarland.
To clarify, Birawer is not trying to create a Detroit version of the music fest as it was originally intended. Instead, she invites guests to "live action role play" the event by organically re-creating and playing off of the many failed elements of the dumpster fire Fyre Festival.
Birawer says the plan is to charter guests in from an as-yet unnamed Hamtramck bar, which will act as the "airport" where many Fyre Fest guests were stranded on their attempt to fly home after realizing the festival was a fraud. Detroit Bus Co. busses will serve as "airplanes," and Detroit's Belle Isle will stand in as the Bahamian isle of Great Exuma. (Hopefully, that is — again, officials stress that the event has not actually been approved yet.)
"Upon arrival, people will be given their itinerary and an envelope which will assign them a character," Birawer says. "There will be a box truck filled with luggage, just like at Fyre, and it will be someone's job to 'volunteer' to distribute luggage. It's all random."
Some people will be assigned the role of "Instagram influencer" and get access to a yet-to-be chartered boat which may or may not be "a paddle boat or a few canoes or something," Birawer says. Local bands will be "booked" but will never perform and yes, someone will be granted the golden ticket of role-playing as the event producer who allegedly was prepared to heroically offer a customs official a blow job in order to release shipping containers filled with drinking water to "save the festival."
People from all over the country are reaching out asking how to get involved. Birawer says she's got someone on deck to serve cheese sandwiches, and that Fiji water even reached out to offer sponsorship almost immediately following the event page's construction. Birawer says to expect a snow-filled promo video to be released soon to help hype the event, and a "curry yellow" Instagram campaign will be rolled out shortly after.
While the event seems purely ironic, Birawer says her priorities are sincere. All of the event's profit will go to charity, she says, and all steps are being taken to not disturb the state park island or its guests (hence the charter busses, rather than clogging the island with more than 150 cars).
Asked why she wants to re-create the "Greatest Music Festival that never happened," Birawer waxes nostalgic.
"I just started thinking about childhood and how we used to play outside," she says. "I think it’s weird that when you get to be an adult, you still have that longing to be social and play games. You know, people join soccer leagues, but no one actually goes outside to play hide and seek or capture the flag. I'm just excited to have a group of diverse humans interacting with each other."
And if there were any doubt as to how close to the real thing Birawer's LARP is shaping up to be, someone apparently already got scammed by buying unauthorized tickets from someone in her Facebook page's comments.
"The game is already started," she says. "Which is hilarious."
Tickets are not yet on sale (and again, the event has not yet been given the green light by DNR). Stay tuned for more information.
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