Catching your favorite band play an uncharacteristically small venue or an unexpected non-club locale can be quite a treat, and apparently, a new live music trend is allowing fans to do just that. If the slew of Facebook invites making the rounds on music lovers’ feeds the past couple of weeks are to be believed, music superstars have begun booking gigs at unusual and/or downright odd locales like fast food restaurants, hardware stores, and mall shops. Yes, Drake will be blinging up Hooters, while Third Eye Blind will be (semi) charming fans at Lenscrafters, and Siouxsie Sioux will be getting her Hong Kong Garden on at Panda Express next month. Or will they?
Any discerning Facebook user can tell these shows are obviously fakes, right? Not so fast. Scroll through the comments on the event pages for the quickly multiplying mass of strange billings and you’ll see quite a few confused posts asking “Is this real?” Others pose seemingly sincere inquiries about set-times and cover charges, while most just seem to be going along with the gag, jokingly polling would-be attendees about set lists and the like. Then there are those who are downright angry, indicating they might have been duped by the bogus invites, at least before they clicked the link in their feeds.
The chance of actually catching Tom Waits, Tom Petty, Tom Jones and Thomas Dolby at Tommy Burgers kinda needs not be questioned, though — I mean, c’mon. A better question is “why?” Why this sudden epidemic of intentionally erroneous events on the social network anyway? Like, who got time for that? Well, somebody sure does. The social network has been inundated with these events of late, with more and more popping up everyday, boasting big bands or bad ones (Creed, Nickelback) at stranger and stranger places (Limp Bizkit at a Compton Laundromat is a can’t miss, as is Korn at Sleepy’s in Greenpoint), all with the same tongue in cheek descriptions and crudely photo-shopped images of the touted headliner imposed on a background shot of the venue.
Fake Facebook events aren’t exactly new. They had a moment last year, when a host of more esoteric ones made the rounds. But those were never at real locations. The new rash of events is more prankish in nature, and especially when they promote past-their-prime performers, their “shows” just plausible enough to possibly be real and fool gullible fans. Some of the venues are ridiculous, but others aren’t much lowlier than the county fair circuits that one-hit wonders, has-beens and even still-viable acts often really do play for a quick buck.
So where and when did this whole thing start? After some serious FB event surfing and sleuthing we noted a few things. First, even though the gigs are created by different users, Facebook’s algorithm seems to recognize them as similar, so if you to go the event page for one of them, you can find other phonies in the “similar events” column. This suggests that in the beginning anyway, they were a created by connected crew of friends or acquaintances. With so many people clicking going or interested, which then appear on friend’s feeds, these invites have spread like wildfire and inspired strangers to join in the foolhardy fun too. Second, it’s probably more than a coincidence that April 1st was only a month and a half ago. Facebook has always made for a great place to pull online pranks with friends and our guess is, that’s how the trend began. Not surprisingly, meme-king Drake, who’s had scheduled appearances everywhere from Home Depot (which apparently already took place) to the Cheesecake Factory was the first joke invite we noted in our feed, and the invite for his aforementioned Hooters show in Peachtree (referencing his 2013 track, “From Time,” and the lyric about “Courtney from Hooters in Peachtree”) currently has 6,100 people “going” and over 10k people “interested.”
The Drake invite and first few that followed all seemed to reference if not the artist’s music, at least the silliness of their names or career paths. They were clever, and seemingly made for fans by fans who’d get “the joke” referenced in both the event’s location and description. But as the phenom has grown the past few weeks encompassing all music genres and parts of the country, it’s inspired more and more people to participate. And many just aren’t as creative or nuanced as the originals. Linkin Park at the Lincoln Park Zoo is cute but obvious, while Nine Inch Nails at an abandoned Albertson’s parking lot is just flat-out absurdism.
At some point, the faux flood will just stop being funny altogether. Some Facebook users already feel that way, and as a result they’ve created — you guessed it — a (very real) Facebook event called “Rage Against the Fake Facebook Events” (World Tour) for those who are “sick of their event page spammed up with fake events. This is our stand!”
Many users are posting that they’ve reported the fakers to Facebook, but thus far Zuckerberg’s watchdogs have left most of them intact — they’re presumably too busy ignoring legitimate reports of real abuse to bother themselves with reports of fake abuse — and we think they’d be wise to do so. Like sharing and tagging Top 10 music lists or chain posts about how friends met each other, this is about users not only connecting but engaging on the site. If people get sick of the trend, it will fade away and people will move on naturally, just like they did with profile filters and that annoying “Be like Bill” stick figure meme.
Still, it’s not a stretch to assume that the popularity of false events is as much about fucking with Facebook as it is its users. The site has alienated clubs, musicians, party promoters and social types in general in recent months, imposing restrictions on how many people one can invite to an event (based on reply ratios) and/or see their pages. Of course, that’s because Facebook wants to sell us all ads to be seen.
The irony is, the same herd mentality that’s made the phony show phenom so huge could be a way to outsmart Facebook and save promoters and pals from having to pay the site. If we all clicked “going” or “interested” on friends’ real events and shared them on our timelines in large numbers the way everyone is doing with the funny fakes of the moment, that’d be enough. Sadly, most of us look at the deluge of invites for events, to join groups, or to like pages as a nuisance and simply ignore them, even when they’re from real (not fake) friends.