The Four Loko Protest And/Or Vigil, Starring Anamanaguchi
Union Square Park
Wednesday, November 17
Better Than: Going down without a fight.
Even before New York banned Four Loko, the energy drink that supplements the caffeine equivalent of three cups of coffee with taurine, guarana, wormwood, and 12-percent ABV, the threat of such a ban had been looming for months. Momentum really started to build by late September, after a new batch of 17- and 18-year-old incoming freshmen found the drink waiting for them at their respective college campuses. Still, few were prepared for the official announcement, and no one could have anticipated the public outcry that has followed. That outcry culminated last night with the Four Loko candlelight vigil, held at Union Square.
When I arrived at the park, I was worried that, if people decided to show up at all, turnout might be significantly lower than the event’s Facebook page suggested. (That page, it should be noted, features an image of a cranberry-lemonade Four Loko can Photoshopped over the burning World Trade Center. Yes, they went there.) However, my fears vanished when I heard, off in the distance, a crowd marching in my direction chanting, “What do we want? FOUR LOKO! When do we want it? FOREVER!”
The march concluded in the open space on the park’s west side, only yards away from a statue of Mohandas Gandhi. Like the Mahatma, these protesters insisted on non-violent means. The members of Brooklyn 8-bit punk band Anamanaguchi led the proceedings, imploring the crowd to “think globally and act Loko-ly.” Meanwhile, true to our recent Top Ten Four Loko Songs list, everybody in attendance sang the lyrics to Gwap Gang’s “Four Loko” and didn’t miss a beat. Someone suggested calling up speakers, but Anamanaguchi’s Peter Berkman responded, “Four Loko doesn’t have speakers, only messengers.”
Soon, the crowd began to light candles and, in turn, use those candles to light their cigarettes. A few mourners stepped forward to share their Four Loko stories. “Every time I drank a Four Loko, something terrible happened,” one said, then, when the applause settled, concluded, “And each time, I grew from it.” A less enthusiastic round of applause followed.
Finally, Anamanaguchi got off their soapbox and began their anticipated but seemingly implausible acoustic set. They did rely on a laptop to generate their NES melodies, but complemented that indulgence with two acoustic guitars and a pair of bongos. In accordance with the evening’s events, they created revisionist origin stories for many of their songs. “Helix Nebula” thus became a song about drinking Four Loko in orbit, while “Jetblack Blues” simply became “Four Loko Blues.”
As their set wound down, the band powered down their laptop and began a round of acoustic sing-a-longs, inserting Four Loko into the lyrics of popular songs, most of which were originally performed by Sublime. “What I Got” turned out to be a natural fit, whereas “Santeria” was a bit of a stretch. The Beatles-inspired “Why Don’t We Drink Four Loko in the Road?” closed the event, the entire crowd joining in before setting off to find the nearest bodega this side of the East River. Some terrible things were about to happen, but a lot of growth was sure to follow.
Overheard: Don’t get me started.
Random Notebook Dump: There’s a possible confrontation brewing between those who accept Joose and those who don’t.