It was this exact concert, on December 6th, 1969, that changed everything for the 60s movements, from the hippies to the Hells Angels. Suddenly, the HA were bad guys, just like the hippies. They didn’t used to be (entirely anyhow), they were symbolic of a new-fangled, American-styled freedom, viewed like modern cowboys: outside the law, rather than above it or running from it. They were outsiders who lived on their own terms, and wanted to be left alone with their friends, old ladies, and the open road.

Not after today… on this day they were out on display, with the specific purpose of being a force to be reckoned with. Those who weren’t afraid of the Angels before, were now. They were hired as security, and paid in beer… it went about as you would expect.

This agreement was brokered by my late friend from The Brotherhood, Billy G. No one thought it would end this way. The whole “paying them in beer” thing came after they agreed to do it… And it wasn’t helped by the Rolling Stones delaying they’re set for hours (simply because they wanted people to see the pyrotechnics more clearly).

A sad day, in the end, a concert-goer was killed by HA in what is now a highly debated moment in history. Some say it was the man, who had a gun, started it. Others say the Hell’s Angels were too drunk off the beer to be reliable and they started it. In the end, a black man was killed by a bunch of white guys wearing lightning bolts and ‘SS’ insignia. It didn’t exactly resonate well with the communities at large at the time. For a lot of regular people, rightly or wrongly, Red & White became the enemy around sunset on this day. Along with the Manson murders (which had just happened in August), we saw the hippie culture subverted and the carefree 60s vibes killed alongside Meredith Hunter and the Labiancas. Luckily, the 1970s were just around the corner…

After this, it was all partying and back-to-the-land. The revolution was fizzling out, and free-your-mind turned into anarchoprimitivism as entire communities began to see the idea of social upheaval as impossible. Folks started focusing on themselves and their immediate friends and family. Some were called preppers or libertarians, others were still just called hippies.

The Back To The Landers were the hippies that took New Age culture to Northern California, specifically Humboldt and southern Oregon, and created the scenes we know and love today. In an odd twist of fate befitting Humboldt, if this tragedy wouldn’t have occurred, perhaps hippies would still be a mostly urban phenomenon in the Pacific Northwest…

 

References:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEw_FuglGVU
  2. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altamont_Free_Concert
  3. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hells_Angels
  4. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Meredith_Hunter
  5. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back-to-the-land_movement

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