British Columbia·Video

Riot erupts at Vancouver music festival after headliner Lil Baby cancels show

A music festival in Vancouver turned into a riot late Sunday after organizers announced the night's headliner wouldn't be performing because of an illness.

7 arrested, hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage after Breakout Festival, PNE and police say

People rioting at a music festival in Vancouver.
Rioters at the PNE Amphitheatre in Vancouver are pictured after Breakout Fest, a hip-hop music festival, announced its headliner wouldn't be performing on Sept. 18, 2022. (Snapchat)

A music festival in Vancouver turned into a riot that's believed to have caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage late Sunday after organizers announced the night's headliner wouldn't be performing because of an illness.

Breakout Fest, a hip-hop music festival held at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) grounds over the weekend, announced rapper Lil Baby was "too sick" to take the stage at the PNE Amphitheatre around 9:30 p.m. — half an hour before the scheduled end of the show.

Videos from the scene after the announcement show people tearing down tents, throwing garbage cans and swarming the venue's beer garden. Others flipped over refrigerators and snapped concession tables.

Police arrested seven people for breach of the peace.

"Tonight ... fans turned their disappointment into anger, doing significant damage to the PNE Amphitheatre and parts of Hastings Park," PNE spokesperson Laura Ballance said in an interview.

Criminal investigation launched

After Lil Baby's no-show was announced at 9:15, the PNE said in a Monday afternoon statement that about 4,200 of the 5,200 attendees left without incident.

"Approximately 1,000 of the guests turned their disappointment into a violent outburst that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to PNE property inside the Amphitheatre and in Hastings Park," the statement read.

"It is our understanding that there was additional damage to property outside of Hastings Park, in the community and to local businesses. For this, we are incredibly sorry to our neighbours."

Two police officers wearing tactical gear are shown from behind as they cross a Vancouver street.
Vancouver police officers outside the PNE after a riot erupted at Breakout Festival on Sunday. (Liam Britten/CBC)

A statement from the Vancouver Police Department on Monday said "several hundred people" started fighting and destroying property both inside and outside the venue after learning the headliner wasn't coming.

"Though no major injuries have been reported, there are likely thousands of dollars in property damage," the statement read.

Police have launched a criminal investigation.

WATCH | Aftermath of the riot at the PNE Amphitheatre:

Aftermath of the PNE Amphitheatre riot after festival headliner cancelled

1 year ago
Duration 0:59
Angry music festival attendees wrecked tents, threw garbage bins and toppled fridges at the PNE Amphitheatre on Sept. 18, 2022, after organizers announced the festival's headliner, Lil Baby, wouldn't perform.

Lil Baby, PNE apologize

People travelled from across the province to attend the two-day festival, paying up to $350 for a ticket. 

Prior to Lil Baby's sudden cancellation, the event had already seen a number of last-minute changes to its weekend programming.

Lil Uzi Vert was supposed to headline the first day of the festival, but a week before the event organizers announced that the American rapper had cancelled due to "unforeseen circumstances."

On Friday, a day before the event, it was revealed that two more artists, Polo G and Sofaygo, would no longer be performing.

Fans leaving the venue on Sunday night mentioned the cost and cancellations as a source of frustration. 

"Biggest joke of my life, spend $200-$300 to travel, then all that money for the tickets and then it's a wash ... biggest waste of my money, of my life," said Will Thompson, who had travelled several hours from B.C.'s Kootenays to get to the festival.

"I paid for two days, $260, and probably four of the artists I bought the tickets to see cancelled, and I also got pepper-sprayed and bashed my knee out with a baton — so overall, it was not a good night," said Joseph Dale, who had travelled from Ladner in Delta, B.C.

A poster for Breakout Festival seen at the intersection of Hastings and Renfrew streets after the crowd had largely dispersed. (Liam Britten/CBC)

Lil Baby apologized to fans on Instagram, saying his body "completely shut down" Sunday after working for months.

Ballance also offered an apology to residents in the area around the PNE.

"The PNE is incredibly sorry for the action of those guests and the impact this behaviour may have had on our community," she said.

Breakout Festival has had issues with no-show headliners in the past. In 2018, Atlanta-area rap trio Migos failed to show up and perform as planned on the final night of the event. 

Organizers said they were considering partial refunds for Sunday ticketholders.

With files from Liam Britten