Flask Mobs | Millennials Redefine Nightlife
By Jeremy Joven
Published Apr 2015
They storm the streets together, music blaring, lights flashing, with cameras that go click, click, click. They gather by the hundreds, people of all ages—kids at heart, from their late teens to their thirties on foot, by boards, or bike. When the mob gathers and you just happen on the crowd, you might feel rattled as if a riot is coming. It may appear like a protest since many from the mob wear dark clothes, some hide behind Guy Fawkes’ masks or Dia de los Muertos-inspired face paints. They act like rebels, taking over the moonlit streets. It is not Occupy, or a political protest of any kind—it’s your “neighborhood friendly” Flask Mob. You could say that they are rebels without a cause, though they may argue that “Fun” is a cause and that is what they are after and, it can last all night. What started as a monthly nighttime photowalk in San Francisco back in 2013 turned into an overnight sensation for urban adventurers with a photography fixation, with gatherings happening in San Francisco and now in Los Angeles attracting thousands. Co-Founders Evan and Sabina Thompson started with the idea to get people out of their digital confines, to gather and create, network and revel in the beauty of San Francisco. They came together peacefully, marching with flask at hand, and little by little the crowd got thicker— with it attracting participants with malicious intent. More recently, the event has grown and among the peaceful mobsters are steel wool exhibitionists and firework bearing folks causing damage to public and private property. Most definitely not SFPD’s favorite; causing the group problems and hefty fines as they try to keep control of the enthusiastic crowd Bryan Gwynn, a photographer and a regular Flask Mob attendee appreciates the night for its original idea—a place where photographers can try out new ideas with their cameras. “I found that after Flask Mob my whole style of photography started to change for the better in my opinion. As a participant of the event I feel like some of the people get a little carried away, because they feel like they can be rebels and do whatever they want because some see it more as a riot mob which is not what flask mob is about.” It’s a departure from the fun we are used to having on Friday nights—getting dressed up to go bar-hopping to meet up with friends and make new ones. Though it is still evolving, and as bureaucracy gets involved, this cultural trend has ramifications that may change the landscape of nightlife as we know it—as far fetched as that sounds. It creates an alternative to establishments being the place to be. The roaming style of this mob makes for an entirely different way to enjoy a night out that many cities would ban in a flash. Especially considering that alcohol, though not for sale, rather brought in flasks, is involved with varying age groups assembling together. Flask Mob’s long term outlook in contributing to the larger picture of Youth Culture depends not on the original organizers, but the attendees alone. Recently, the nighttime event was slapped with a fine by the City of San Francisco for the mayhem it left in its wake. Even though the founders actively promote to followers that defacing public property is not allowed during Flask Mob nights, the large gathering has proven to be hard to manage. On the group’s Facebook page, co-founder Evan Thompson posted this message: “Thank you so much to everyone who came out and continues to show support! No thank you to all the people who abuse the mob as a platform to act out. The mob does not support the following: jumping on cars, graffiti, vandalism, public intoxication (yes a flask is fine but no one likes you wasted), and anything to disrupt the city. Fucking SF is a beautiful place and we pride ourselves in being a positive group. We give back, clean up after ourselves, and don’t [want] anyone to taint that for the community. We will permanently shut ourselves down if this negative behavior continues.” The issue of etiquette comes into play for those attending the event, especially those who do not adhere to the philosophy behind the creative gathering. Historically, the mob is a peaceful march of citizens just out to have fun and take photos. When all the fun is had, many of the mob volunteer to pick-up the streets after the dingbats who litter. The result of the Mob is a beautiful snapshot of a growing youth culture with a wealth of awe-inspiring photography posted in social media by mobbers experimenting and honing their craft (along with the performers and artists expressing themselves). The cultural contribution of this massive group gives a different light to “public assembling” and activates the spirit of a new generation to not only congregate for fun but continue our community’s tradition of gathering for a cause when it is needed. All it will take is respect of spaces and each other and the Flask Mob will live on for many generations to come. Some basic etiquette and common sense would most definitely keep a good thing like this going. To learn more about the group, visit their blog Flaskmob.com