The end of the Sixties

What could go wrong with a free festival in the sixties with the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, the Rolling Stones, and an abundant supply of drugs and liquor? Well, the possibilities are endless, but you add in The Hells Angels, Black Panthers, and over a hundred-thousand hippies, and you’ve got the 1970 docmentary Gimmie Shelter. Ike and Tina perform too, but we won’t get into that, there are enough black eyes to go round for everyone.

I never really knew what went on in 1969, aside from Woodstock. I had heard of the "nightmare at Altamont," and that the Hells Angels were there, but never any details. Gimmie Shelter puts everything into perspective. Little things about music that I’ve heard here and there, things that relate back to the nightmare at Altamont, and how the sixties died with that concert.

To say the sixties died in an evening seems harsh, but throughout the footage of the concert, the audience changes. Happiness-drug-induced or not-was obvious early in the day. Wide-eyed and smiling, hugging, kissing, blowing bubbles into the brisk December air, people enjoy the music, much in the same vein as at Woodstock. As the day-long festival wears on, the atmosphere changes. Shouts and crying ensue as guns emerge, Hells Angels wielding weapons swarm the stage, Mick Jagger stops and pleads with the audience to stop and sit down. Boots and pool-cues work in tandem as the Angels throw down their brand of security for the festival. Tears leave trails on the dirty faces of the audience.

The cinematographers (George Lucas is in amongst the crew) capture everything vital to the outcome of the festival. The extreme disorder in organization had a drastic effect on the result of the concert. There was a complete lack of security because organizers assumed that the concert would run relatively smoothly as Woodstock had earlier that year.

With the standards for security endured today this seems a ludicrous oversight, but it’s interesting how everyone remains optimistic.

What could go wrong? From the very start, the only time that the police are consulted is to verify that there is room to park at least 80,000 cars. Poor planning and unforeseen guests kill four people, and injure numerous others. This is no concert, this is a battlefield.

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