New York’s LetsGetFr.ee Woke Music Fest Has Imploded – And Angry Fans Want Answers

LetsGetFr.ee promised star-studded programming curated by and for people of color in one of the most diverse locations in the country.

The incomprehensibly named festival was set to kick off with an opening gala at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens on August 19. Over the next two days, notable artists like Missy Elliott, Jhene Aiko, Ozuna, El Alfa, Anderson .Paak and Kali Uchis were to take the stage in New York. Calling itself a “purpose-driven musical experience” and a “conscious Carnival”, the festival – the brainchild of Afropunk founder Matthew Morgan, his partner Jocelyn Cooper and creative agency Anomaly – attempted to bolster its socially conscious credentials by promoting a mission to “reduce the equity deficit” in the entertainment industry and achieve a “diverse workforce at all levels of the industry by 2030”. How a weekend of wristbands and portable toilets was supposed to do this is unclear, as is the abrupt cancellation of the festival which has now left hundreds of ticket holders scrambling for refunds that are unlikely to arrive before mid-September.

On Friday, organizers scrapped the entire slate of performances with less than a month until showtime. They blamed inflation, of all things, plus a series of other vague setbacks, including “new safety regulations that were recently put in place would have required us to significantly change your experience to a smaller version , watered down and inauthentic”. (Festival organizers did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Daily Beast. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation did not respond to questions about recent safety rule changes.)

Unique Norton doesn’t buy their excuse.

“Their reasons didn’t make sense,” she told The Daily Beast. “Honestly, it didn’t make sense.”

The 23-year-old waitress and aspiring fashion designer heard about the show from her boyfriend, who saw a post about it on Instagram. The couple were due to visit Bonnaroo last September, but that festival too was suddenly canceled after campgrounds flooded. They were drawn to LetsGetFr.ee by the stacked lineup, seemingly quieter “indie festival” vibe, and low price of around $79 per general admission pass.

“We didn’t want our first music festival to be crazy with raves and mosh pits,” she says.

They got their tickets in March. Norton was especially excited for .Paak and Uchis. They booked train tickets from Tampa, Florida, as well as a five-day Airbnb stay in Brooklyn for themselves and their two friends. The stage was set for an unforgettable weekend until Friday, when her boyfriend alerted her to the festival’s Instagram post announcing the cancellation. Comments had been disabled, so angry customers, including Norton, flooded the comment sections of other publications demanding their refunds and lambasting the organizers for their lack of preparation.

The whole fiasco drew comparisons to the infamous Fyre Festival, with no sad open cheese sandwiches.

“We were literally going to sit on a train all day to go to New York for this festival and they canceled it,” Norton said. “We have already set up for refunds. It was a unique situation. The way they handled it was so unprofessional.

Looking back, Norton and others who were planning a fun weekend in New York to end the summer say there were signs that LetsGetFr.ee was in trouble. For one, it’s notoriously difficult to launch a new festival, and some say their favorite artists were barely promoting the event on social media. On top of that, a puzzle ticket tier system proved frustrating for customers.

“If you look at their Instagram page, they try to explain shit because it was really confusing,” offers Sean Cruz, an occupational therapist from Queens who was thrilled to see his favorite performers in his own backyard.

LetsGetFr.ee had a lineup that suited their own musical tastes, which lean towards jazz and neo-soul. He also likes Flushing Meadows Corona Park as a hangout.

“It means a lot to me,” he says. “It’s a place I went to a lot when I was a kid.”

At first, Cruz says the festival advertised general admission tickets as well as “party passes” that promised access to specific performances. Then came an about-face, with organizers announcing that the GA fare now included everything. Some attendees, including Cruz and Norton, had their tickets upgraded to VIP out of nowhere.

In retrospect, it sounds really sus. I’m not a fan anymore.

“For me, I was like, ‘That’s kinda dumb,'” says Cruz, who specifically wanted tickets to the GA so he could watch the show with the crowd. “I’m not really a big side person – watching an artist from one angle while they’re performing.”

He never got his money back for the special passes.

“In retrospect, it sounds really sus. I’m not a fan anymore,” Cruz said.

We don’t know what really happened behind the scenes, but what is It’s clear that a festival that has built up so much ill will from the jump may not survive. Organizers say refunds will be complete by September 15. Refund requests should be made to DICE or TIXR ticket sellers by August 31, although the festival has promised to honor this year’s passes at next year’s festival. Unfortunately, it might prove difficult to convince people to come back for an event that was dead on arrival the first time around.

“A lot of people think it’s a scam, honestly,” Norton says. “Me personally, I feel like they just didn’t sell enough tickets and just rolled back quickly.”

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