Gimme Shelter

Initial media reports called it a drug-fueled riot. Cultural commentators deemed it the anti-Woodstock and said it ended the ’60s. VH1 ranked it the third most shocking moment in rock and roll history, behind only Michael Jackson’s first child molestation arrest and John Lennon’s murder. At the December 1969 Altamont Speedway Free Festival, captured in the 1970 documentary Gimme Shelter and screening today at the River Oaks Theatre, the Rolling Stones headlined, the Hell’s Angels provided some degree of security and four people died. One of them, 18-year-old Meredith Hunter, was stabbed to death by the Angels. Cameras caught it all, even Hunter’s death. Questions, of course, linger about the event. Was the poor planning the result of the Stones’ quick and somewhat entrepreneurial attempt to gain some of the momentum other bands gained at Woodstock? What exactly were the Angels hired to do, stagehand stuff or full-on security? What exactly was Hunter doing to attract the motorcycle club’s attention as the Stones played “Under My Thumb?” (An undying urban legend says that he died during “Sympathy for the Devil,” leading to the song being scrapped from Stones set lists for ten years.) In any case, we should be glad that a documentary crew was there for this historic moment of rock and roll gone bad. Really, really bad. 11:55 p.m. Friday and Saturday. River Oaks Theatre, 2009 West Gray. For tickets and information, call 713-866-8881 or visit $8.25.
Fri., Feb. 29, 11:55 p.m.; Sat., March 1, 11:55 p.m., 2008
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Nick Keppler