Is the Lalala Fest, an annual music festival held in the Orchid Forest near Lembang since 2016, Indonesia’s equivalent of the notorious Fyre Festival, dubbed The Greatest Party that Never Happened?

Perhaps Lalala could not match Fyre in terms of ambition, but what they lacked in international scale they made up with equally egregious promises and responses. But what’s worse for the Lalala organizers is that they had three years to learn from their mistakes – and they failed miserably there.

Since 2016, the Lalala music festival has been promising attendees an enchanting experience for music lovers in the forest. Each year, however, they have failed to deliver on their promise and disappointed its fans instead.

Thinking that humans and festival organizers must be capable of learning from their mistakes and lightning does not strike three times in the same place, my friends and I chose to attend the 2019 Lalala Fest last Saturday, along with thousands of festival fans.

Like many Millennial, we were attracted by their Instagrammable posts of happy festival goers frolicking among misty forests and enjoying the event and each other’s company.

The reality of the Lalala Fest when we got there was a shock to the system and expectations the organizers had built up via their social media posts.

The first shock was about transportation. The impression the organizers gave was that they had ample shuttle buses to ferry attendees from Bandung to their Cikole forest in Lembang where the festival was being held, and back. In addition, they also had shuttle buses from three parking zones to the festival for those who chose to drive to the festival.

The reality on the ground was that the number of shuttle buses was inadequate and poorly organized. People did not line up and the organizers merely stood by and did nothing in the rush for seats on the busses. Also, the shuttle buses between the festival site and the parking zones were not to be found, forcing some festival-goers to hike from two to five kilometers to get to their cars after the festival. This prompted many of them to post negative comments using the sarcastic hashtag #lalalafit on Twitter.

The second shock about the festival was the lack of organization on the ground, especially when it came to garbage disposal. We could not see any garbage bins except for some garbage bags places here and there.

The result was rubbish strewn everywhere. This was particularly acute toward the end of the festival when it stopped raining. The audience, who had been wearing disposable plastic ponchos, took off their water-resistant gear and used them as mats instead to sit on.

The organizers did not encourage them to dispose of their ponchos after the concert ended. And this silence, combined with a lack of garbage bins, resulted in a sea of plastic covering the muddied forest grounds.

The lack of proper management of transport, crowds and garbage combined naturally resulted in the Millennial festival goers venting their anger and dissatisfaction against the organizers on social media.

The festival goers also started to compare the Lalala Festival to the Fyre Festival, primarily because a documentary of the fiasco was streamed over Netflix recently. The Fyre Festival had used social media to build up its image as the greatest party on earth with a cast of top names in modeling, music and the entertainment industry attending. It also promised, for steep prices, luxury villas for the party in an exotic island in the Bahamas.

What happened was that the Fyre Festival was a sham. The organizers did not book the top names as they promised, the festival site was only part of a vast and relatively developed Bahamas island, and they never built the luxury villas. Partygoers were put up instead in makeshift tents that were washed out and flooded because of the rain, entertainers failed to show up and transport was horrible.

Understandably the dissatisfied Millennial Indonesian festival goers of Lalala took to flaming the organizers on their Instagram accounts. But instead of addressing them the organizers instead opted to delete the negative comments. Not to be silenced the disgruntled took to Twitter instead and you can see many of their complaints if you search for the hashtag #lalalafest.

It is a festival that I will never go to again but as I sit fuming about how shabbily we were treated I also could not help reflecting on the irony of the festival and the Indonesian festival goers.

Here you have a festival that has a track record since 2016 of bad organization and this had been thoroughly aired on social media. Yet each year the organizers manage to attract thousands of Indonesians. Are we Millennial so starved of collective experiences and FOMO that we would choose to go against evidence and believe that the Lalala Fest will get better this year?

And will this foolishness repeat itself in 2020 when the Lalala Fest organizers stage the next concert? Will we, the audience, also never learn from our mistakes, and swallow their ersatz social media promises hook, line, and sinker?

Written by Ambarwati Dwilo, Associate and edited by Marsha Imaniara, Manager

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