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date: 22 February 2020

Altamont Festivallocked

  • Norma Coates


A free outdoor music festival organized and headlined by the Rolling Stones that took place on 6 December 1969. Goaded by the music press to put on a free show in the wake of the recent Woodstock festival and unprecedentedly high ticket prices for their own shows, the group quickly and haphazardly arranged the festival. The remote Altamont Speedway in the scrubland northeast of San Francisco was used after attempts to hold it at more congenial spots fell through. Possibly at the suggestion of the Grateful Dead’s manager, the Stones hired some members of San Francisco Hells Angels, the notorious motorcycle gang, to work security. Over 300,000 people flocked to the desolate place on a wintry day. Violence, primarily attacks by the Hells Angels on audience members and musicians, began almost immediately, and culminated in the murder of a young African-American man, Meredith Hunter. Documentarians Albert and David Maysles captured Hunter’s knifing at the hands of a Hells Angel, and the rest of the day’s dysfunction and violence in their film ...

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