Altamont

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This article concerns the music festival. For other uses of the term, see Altamont (disambiguation)
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Altamont Concert
Altamont is a speedway in Northern California, near Livermore, that hosted a rock music festival in December 1969 which was marred by violence, including one killing.

The festival included the Rolling Stones and other bands (including the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane). About 300,000 people attended the festival, and the hope was that it would be "Woodstock West."

The festival was originally supposed to be at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. However, the permits were never issued for the concert. The venue was then changed to the Sears Point Raceway, but after a dispute with the owner of Sears Point, Filmways, Inc., over film distribution rights, the festival was moved to the Altamont Speedway. This move occurred only days before the event was to take place, resulting in many problems. Most importantly, facilities such as portable toilets and medical tents were lacking in number. The stage, which was only four feet high, was surrounded by Hells Angels who acted as bouncers; the sound system was hardly sufficient for such a large audience. The Angels were hired by the Rolling Stones' manager, Sam Cutler, reportedly for $500 in free beer, although it is suspected that their involvement was, in reality, motivated by a desire to manage drug distribution at the concert. The crowd management proved to be a disaster and many people were hurt and four were killed. Two of the deaths were caused by a hit-and-run car accident. Another death was the result of a person drowning in a drainage ditch. The most famous death was that of Meredith Hunter. Hunter, an 18-year-old African American drew a long-barreled revolver and was stabbed and kicked to death during the Rolling Stones concert just in front of the stage, allegedly by the Hells Angels. News agencies reported the event as a "drug induced riot." The Rolling Stones, who reacted rather helpless facing the brutality within the crowds, had to interrupt their performance. Unaware that Hunter had been fatally stabbed, they decided to go on in order to prevent a riot.

The Altamont concert is often contrasted to the Woodstock festival that took place earlier in 1969, and is sometimes said to mark the end of the innocence embodied by Woodstock. However, there were many other factors contributing to the end of the counterculture.

In popular culture, the events at Altamont have been characterized as Hells Angels attacking innocent hippies. Various drugs were present at the event, some of which were of poor quality. These drugs were distributed to unknowing victims during the concert, with a resulting increase in "bad trips." Hells Angels acting as security guards were not only using some of these drugs, but were probably not the best people to handle these cases. Unlike Altamont, Woodstock's security had been provided by members of the hippie commune, the Hog Farm, led by Wavy Gravy. Obviously, fellow hippies would understand what those on LSD were going through.

Some commentators saw coincidences with the astrological situation, while others connected it with the Stones dealing with the Voodoo fashion. The album and song titles Let it bleed, Sympathy for the devil, and Gimme shelter, seemed approproate terms for the riotous atmosphere at Altamont.

The events of the concert are recounted in the documentary film, Gimme Shelter which includes the stabbing.

On May 25, 2005, the Alameda county sheriff's department announced that it was closing the stabbing case. The accused Hells Angel, Alan Passaro, had been acquitted at the time, after a jury concluded he acted in self-defense because Hunter was carrying a gun, drew it, and pointed it at the stage. There had been rumors over the years that a second unidentified assailant had inflicted the fatal wounds, and as a result, the police had considered the case to still be open. Investigators, concluding a renewed two year investigation, have now dismissed a theory that a second Hells Angel took part in the stabbing. [1] (http://apnews1.iwon.com/article/20050527/D8ABJ9300.html)

Songs performed by the Rolling Stones:

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