Written by Marianna Barrera
Photos By Ryan Lebrich
As soon as the sun sets, the mob slowly starts to gather between Sansome and Commercial Streets. Soon hundreds of people are gathered on that same corner being loud, drinking, and drawing attention to themselves.
“Flask Mob! Flask Mob!” chants everyone as soon as founders Evan Thompson and Sabina Farrugia show up and begin to lead the way. Once at their first stop, everybody poses for a group picture and smoke bombs are distributed. In no time, the air is filled with smoke and the flash of cameras is all around.
Filling the streets by the hundreds, they drink, smoke, laugh, and photograph anything around them. They are a family; they are Flask Mob—some of the Bay Area’s most creative minds gathered and ready to take over the streets of San Francisco.
Flask Mob started as an idea after Thompson’s friends and online followers constantly asked to go shoot with him. Thompson is known for his truly invigorating pictures of the San Francisco skylines, not fearing boundaries and always going above and beyond to capture the perfect shot.
“There’s always new spots to find, and there’s always new buildings,” says Thompson, “so once we found a name and a reason to meet up, that’s how it organically started.”
The idea behind Flask Mob was to create an event where people with an interest in photography could gather and learn to take pictures in places where Thompson usually does, all while having fun and drinking.
“We’re creative people,” says Farrugia, “So we wanted a forum for people to hang out, chill and network, and do stuff that we like to do.”
The catchy name was created by Farrugia, taking the idea of flash mobs and making it their own.
“Flash mobs meet and dance at a random location. Flask Mob would meet and drink at a random location,” says Thompson.
One of the main group objectives is for people to network with each other, in a more nontraditional way.
“We want it to be fun, because I have to do networking stuff all the time, and a lot of it is stuck up, wine, suits—not fun,” says Farrugia, “creative people typically aren’t’ the people who want to be in suits with wine discussing what they can work on together.”
Flask Mob was the answer, it would be a networking event in which people could still have fun and not have to worry about traditional networking stuff.
“So we started telling people to pack a flask, pack a camera and show up,” says Farrugia.
The first meetup took place last November with about seventy people. Since then, word of the mob has been spreading quickly through social media, increasing the number of attendees by the hundreds.
“Everyone was so about it from the get go,” says Faruggia, “It became a lot bigger than we had planned. “
The mob now has almost four thousand followers on Instagram, and more than five hundred email sign-ups for their upcoming website.
Throughout the night, the streets and alleys of San Francisco are illuminated by flares, spinning steel wool, and everyone’s excitement. Bystanders were confused, their cars slowing as they tried to figure out who this group of people was. Employees would come out and ask who they were as the mob passed by their business.
The group made five stops in their route. Leaders of the mob tried to control the crowd by separating and communicating with each other via walkie-talkies.
One of the bigger problems the mob has had to deal with, is the constant tagging.
“It got so out of hand with the tagging that we actually pulled the plug. We said it’s done you guys,” says Farrugia about one of their previous meets.
“We do encourage expressing yourself, but there are ways to do it,” said Farrugia, “A lot of our friends are graffiti artists, and I have tagged back in the day, but that just has to be separate from what were doing, mainly because we can shut down really quickly.”
Flask Mob is trying to keep under the radar as much as they can, thus staying out of trouble is a big concern. John Kim, a former social media follower of Thompson was taken in after the first meetup, and is part of crowd control for the mob.
“The crowd started to get bigger, and I kind of tried to control it on my own,” says Kim. “It’s hard, but I’ll try to start at one section and try to keep them in line, and we communicate with walkie-talkies too, because nobody answers their phones.”
Kylle Thomasson walked with his guitar and was singing with others throughout the night. The crowd cheered for him and sang along, bringing even more enthusiasm to the already rowdy group. At multiple points, he provided music for a free style rap performed by two other attendees.
“I feel like I’m family. It’s like I came here and was accepted, you feel me?” says one of the freestyle rappers and first time attendees, Michael “Burnt Toast” Young. “ It wasn’t like, ‘Oh he’s an outsider’ I felt welcome here.”
The night continues until past midnight, the crowd’s enthusiasm going strong and by the end of the night, after a few security guards kicked everyone out of the Yerba Buena gardens, the mob slowly started dispersing.
Flask Mob events are held once a month, and every other month such as last month, instead of walking the streets, they will gather at a spot to network and drink with each other.
“Flask Mob, as it grows, it’s a learning experience in how we coordinate the large amounts of people,” said Thompson.
Thompson felt as if he was not able to communicate with everyone by just doing the walking Flask Mob. His goal for the alternate meet ups is to be able to know everyone in the group, and have a chance for everybody be able to talk to each other as well.
“I like how we’re meeting all these new people and learning from each other,” said Andre Soto at his first Flask Mob event, “We get to make a connection with everyone, and it’s a way of connecting with your community. It’s perfect.”
For now, the renegade group is staying in San Francisco, but Thompson is already working on expanding the mob and, by the end of the year, plans to take over 3 more cities.
Their next stop: Los Angeles.