Violence At Altamont: The 'Hells Angels Stabbing' And The End Of The 1960s

By Jack Ripley | November 16, 2023

Altamont Was No Woodstock

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(Everett Collection)

It was meant to be a west coast Woodstock, but today we remember it as the "end" of the '60s: Altamont. The Hells Angels, a rowdy crowd, and a poorly-arranged venue all conspired to turn a multi-band extravaganza, headlined by the Rolling Stones, into a violent and even deadly debacle. The notorious event known as Altamont, officially called the Altamont Speedway Free Festival, was held at a racetrack in northern California on December 6, 1969, four months after the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival had taken place in upstate New York. With its "peace and love" theme and spirit of togetherness, Woodstock became an emblem of the harmony and togetherness that the hippies and the counterculture could achieve. Altamont was its polar opposite.

The Line-Up Was Amazing

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(Cinema 5)

The Stones were on a bill that included the leading west coast and San Francisco artists of the day, including Jefferson Airplane, Santana, the Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Some 300,000 music fans flocked to Altamont, where the Hells Angels had been enlisted to help out, although stories differ as to what exactly the members of the famous biker gang were expected to do.