Welcome to the Livermore Valley Wine Country

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Altamont Speedway Free Festival

Mick Jagger
Altamont Speedway Free Festival
Gimme Shelter, Mick Jagger, 1970

December 6, 1969
The Day the Music Died

The Altamont Speedway Free Festival was a one-day rock concert held in northern California, just east of the San Francisco Bay Area. The event took place on a rural pass between Tracy and my home town, Livermore. It was meant to be another day of peace and love. Nicknamed "Woodstock West," the event was patterned after the highly successful Woodstock festival held four months earlier in Bethel, New York.

The Rolling Stones headlined and organized the event, which also featured, in order of appearance: Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The Grateful Dead were also scheduled to perform, but declined to participate when the mood turned violent.

Despite the stellar talent onstage, the Altamont concert is remembered more for its violence than the music. Footage and photographs taken that day capture a lawless and disorderly crowd. Many of the 300,000 concert goers were fueled by LSD and amphetamines.

Three people died accidentally. Two were killed in a hit-and-run car accident, and one drowned in an irrigation canal. A pregnant woman suffered a skull fracture when an airborne beer bottle hit her in the head, and 18-year-old Meredith Hunter was fatally stabbed by a member of the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club.

Hell's Angels Beating An Audience Member at Altamont
Altamont Speedway Free Festival
Gimme Shelter, Hell's Angels Beating An Audience Member At Altamont, 1970

It was rumored that the motorcycle club provided security around the 4-foot-high stage in exchange for $500 worth of beer. It's more likely they were instructed to keep audience members away from the performers and their equipment. The concert was immortalized in Gimme Shelter, a 1970 "rockumentary" directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin.

Traffic Jam on Altamont Pass
Approximately 300,000 People Attended the Concert
Traffic Jam due to Rolling Stones Concert
Buy This at Allposters.com

End of an Era
The Altamont concert is often contrasted with the Woodstock festival that took place less than four months earlier. While Woodstock represented "peace and love," Altamont came to be viewed as the end of the hippie era and the de facto conclusion of late-1960s American youth culture.

Cars Parked Near Altamont
December 6, 1969
Cars Parked near Altamont
Buy This at Allposters.com

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Long Time Gone

At the band's request, their performance was not included in the film Gimme Shelter.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Live at Altamont (1969)

Gimme Shelter Original USA Movie Poster
The Rolling Stones (1971)

Paul Kantner - Jefferson Airplane
Hey, man, I'd like to mention that the Hell's Angels just smashed Marty Balin in the face, and knocked him out for a bit. I'd like to thank you for that.

Jefferson Airplane
The Other Side of This Life

During the set, Jefferson Airplane lead singer Marty Balin was punched in the head and knocked unconscious by one of the Hell's Angels. He was eventually helicoptered to a hospital for the treatment of his injuries. The Grateful Dead were scheduled to play two sets later, following The Flying Burrito Brothers and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. When Santana drummer Michael Shrieve informed them of Marty Balin’s assault and the escalating violence, The Grateful Dead opted to leave the venue.

Jefferson Airplane Live at Altamont (1969)

Grace Slick - Jefferson Airplane
People get weird, and you need people like the Angels to keep people in line. But the Angels also -- You know, you don't bust people in the head for nothing. So both sides are f***ing up temporarily; let's not keep f***ing up!

Mick Jagger Performing Onstage
Altamont Speedway Free Festival
Gimme Shelter, Mick Jagger, 1970, Performing Onstage

The Rolling Stones
Under My Thumb

Upon landing by helicopter at the concert site, Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger was met with a punch from an audience member. He appears visibly shaken in this concert video, as he urges fans to “Just be cool down in the front there, don’t push around.” The rock star’s appeals for calm were in vain. Shortly afterward, Meredith Hunter was fatally stabbed with a knife. The 18-year-old student was high on speed and began waving a revolver near the stage. Hell's Angel Alan Passaro reacted by stabbing Meredith Hunter several times in the back, an act that was captured on camera. Meredith Hunter's gun was stolen by someone in the crowd, even as the young man lay face-down dying. Alan Passaro was ultimately acquitted of murder charges on grounds of self defense.

The Rolling Stones Live at Altamont (1969)

Rolling Stones Altamont Concert

The Rolling Stones Set List
Altamont Speedway Free Festival

  • Jumpin' Jack Flash
  • Carol
  • Sympathy for the Devil (stopped then restarted because of fights breaking out)
  • The Sun Is Shining
  • Stray Cat Blues
  • Love in Vain
  • Under My Thumb (stopped then restarted because of fights breaking out)
  • Brown Sugar (first live performance)
  • Midnight Rambler
  • Live with Me
  • Gimme Shelter
  • Little Queenie
  • (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
  • Honky Tonk Woman
  • Street Fighting Man

    Courtesy: Wikipedia

Gimme Shelter Audio CD
The Rolling Stones

Gimme Shelter French Poster
Mick Jagger
Gimme Shelter French Poster, Mick Jagger, 1970

Altamont Concert Montage
Photographed by Bill Owens

1969: The Year Everything Changed
by Rob Kirkpatrick

The Story of the Altamont Rock Concert
Including Footage from the 1970 Documentary Gimme Shelter

Gimme Shelter (1970)
SwitchArt Print
Gimme Shelter, Rolling Stones, 1970

Love California State Flag Heart Altamont T-Shirts
Available in Many Colors, Sizes, and Styles

Archived Comments

Aug 16, 2013
Awesome coverage of the Stones Free concert at Altamont. My husband and I went as it was the day before his birthday. We drove until there was no more places to park and walked 2 miles to the concert. It was an adventure I will never forget. We did not know until the next day what happened by the stage. As soon as the concert was over we had to quickly get up as cars that made it into the area started driving everywhere as there were no roads. We just got up when a car came flying through where we were sitting.

Apr 06, 2013

The Altamont Speedway Festival will always be remembered, more for what went wrong than for the incredible performance of the Stones and other musicians. The film is a phenomenal documentary of the event, and captures the flavor of the era.

Sep 07, 2012

Thanks for the trip down memory lane for the music.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Livermore Valley Wine Country

Livermore, California Montage
Lantern Press Art Print
Livermore, California

Livermore is One of California's Oldest Winemaking Regions

Located just an hour east of San Francisco, the Livermore Valley is home to nearly 50 wineries, with lush vineyards covering more than 5,000 acres. Wineries range from small, family-owned operations like Thomas Coyne Winery and Retzlaff Vineyards to historic leaders of the California wine industry, including Concannon, Wente, and Mirassou.

More than 500,000 people visit Livermore each year. Many stop by to see the world-famous Centennial Bulb, which has burned for over a century. Others are awed by the windmills of Altamont Pass, dotting the hills along Interstate 580.

The Annual Harvest Wine Celebration, held over Labor Day weekend, is the most popular event of the year. However, on any given day, wine tasters receive personalized attention from the valley's many talented winemakers. Visit any of the Livermore Valley Wine Country pages for tasting room hours and additional information about the best Livermore wineries.

Welcome to Livermore Valley Wine Country
Home to 5,000 Acres of Vineyards and More than 50 Wineries
Livermore California
Photographed by Kim Giancaterino (April 2010)

Livermore, California ... My Home Town
San Francisco East Bay Area

My parents moved our family to Livermore when I was three years old. Back then just a few wineries dotted the landscape. Today, thanks to the efforts of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association, vineyards and wineries are prevalent throughout the community. Some of the kids I grew up with are now winemakers themselves, sharing in a tradition that has its roots in the 1840s when local rancher Robert Livermore planted the first commercial vines.

People from all over the world have experienced the first-class wines and breathtaking scenery that distinguish the Livermore Valley.

Livermore Wine Country
Lantern Press Art Print
Livermore, California Wine

Livermore, California
Established in 1869 by William Mendenhall

Livermore is a city located in the east San Francisco Bay Area in Alameda County. The city is part of the Tri-Valley Area, which includes the Amador, Livermore and San Ramon Valleys. In 2013 Livermore’s population was estimated at 85,156.

Livermore was established in 1869 by businessman and landowner William Mendenhall. The town was named for his friend Robert Livermore, a rancher who settled in the valley in the 1840s. Robert Livermore's ranch was a popular stopping point for prospectors and businessmen traveling to and from the Mother Lode gold country.

Livermore is one of California’s oldest winemaking regions, and the landscape includes more than 5,000 acres of vineyards. The Livermore Valley soil is primarily gravel with excellent drainage, a soil type that is especially suited to growing flavorful grapes.

The chemical element livermorium, which appears in the periodic table, was named for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of the city’s largest employers.

Livermore boasts a beautiful downtown area, steeped in history reflecting the cattle and wine industries that created a thriving community. A very eclectic selection of restaurants and retail shops offer everything from home decor to gift items, fine wines, and, of course western wear.

Livermorium Chemical Element Wall Decal
Peel and Stick Removable Graphic Available in Many Sizes

Livermore Fire Department Wall Mural
Mural Adjacent to First Street in Downtown Livermore, California
Livermore California
Photographed by Kim Giancaterino (June 2012)

Vintage Incandescent Bulb

World's Longest Continuously Burning Lightbulb
Livermore California's Centennial Light Bulbcam

Livermore, California Mountain Bike Scene
Lantern Press Art Print
Livermore, California Mountain Bike Scene

by Bill Owens
The Photographer Who Put Livermore, California on the Map

Suburbia Bill Owens
Suburbia by Bill Owens 
In 1972, Livermore Independent news photographer Bill Owens spent his Saturdays photographing residents of Livermore. The project lasted a full year and resulted in a widely renowned volume entitled Suburbia.

As he explained in an Art a GoGo interview: The photographs for “Suburbia” weren’t done by accident. I put together a shooting script of events that I wanted to photograph … Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Birthday’s, etc. I got a small grant, and began taking photographs every Saturday for a year, so basically “Suburbia” was shot in 52 days.

After I finished the photographs, I realized that I had a book, but I never set out with the intention of doing a book.

Since that time, his photos have been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout Europe and North America. Many Suburbia photographs are available at the Bill Owens website. The site features photos from the author’s other works, including Our Kind of People, Working, and Leisure.

Bill Owens Quote Courtesy of Doug Lang, Art a GoGo

Bill Owens
by A.M. Homes (Author), Bill Owens (Author, Photographer), Claudia Zanfi (Editor)

Wine Country Quilts
by Cyndy Lyle Rymer and Jennifer Rounds

I purchased Wine Country Quilts at one of the Livermore wine festivals, and even had it signed by the authors. Don’t worry if you’re not into quilting … it’s worth adding to your library for the photos alone. Several Livermore Valley wineries are featured, including Thomas Coyne Winery, Livermore Valley Cellars, Fenestra Winery, and Wente Vineyards. The artwork of Livermore artist and winemaker Darcie Kent is also featured.

Max Baer
Boxing Heavyweight Champion
The Prizefighter and the Lady, Max Baer, 1933

Notable Livermore Residents

Margaret Holland Sargent
Sandra Irwin Oil on Canvas by Margaret Holland Sargent

Livermore Wineaux Wine Bottles with Barbed Wire Font Sweatshirts
Available in Many Colors, Sizes, and Styles

The Infamous Misspelled Mosaic
Livermore Public Library
Livermore Library Mosaic
Image Used Under Creative Commons from squidish (Flickr)

Imagine everyone’s surprise when the Livermore Public Library unveiled a 16-foot diameter mosaic peppered with misspelled words! The story, bouyed by national media coverage, piqued the curiousity of visitors, anxious to spot all 11 errors. Artist Maria Alquilar felt the people of Livermore just “didn’t understand art.” Even so, one must wonder if William Shakespere or Albert Eistein would be amused. The artist reluctantly corrected the mistakes, though several are captured for posterity in the photo gallery, below.

Livermore Library Mosaic Gaffes
Since Repaired at an Additional Cost of $6,000 to the City
Mosaic Misspelling Photos Courtesy of joelt (Flickr)
Livermore Public Library
Eistein (Einstein)
Livermore Public Library
Nefertite (Nefertiti)
Livermore Public Library
Shakespere (Shakespeare)
Livermore Public Library
Thesues (Theseus)
Livermore Public Library
Virgen (Virgin)

Altamont Pass
The Altamont Pass Wind Farm was One of the First in the United States
Wind Turbines, Altamont Pass Road (Northern California Landscape)

The Windmills of Altamont Pass

Love California State Flag Heart Altamont Ringer T-Shirts
Available in Many Colors, Sizes, and Styles

The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter
The Criterion Collection DVD

Rolling Stones Altamont
Altamont Concert Poster
Altamont Speedway Free Festival
December 6, 1969

The Altamont Pass area is also home to the Altamont Speedway, best known for being the site of the Altamont Free Concert. The December 1969 event was headlined by the most popular rock group of the time, The Rolling Stones. Sadly, the festival is remembered more for the violence than the music.

The concert was originally intended to take place at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, but problems with the city and police departments derailed that plan. When Dick Carter offered his Altamont Speedway, the festival was relocated with barely two days to prepare. In addition to The Rolling Stones, the lineup of performers included Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The Grateful Dead were also scheduled to perform, but changed their minds when the crowd became unmanageable.

The event was attended by more than 300,000 fans, a number well above all projections. Regrettably, the Hell’s Angels were in charge of protecting the stage. Armed with pool cues and knives, the Hell’s Angels attacked several spectators. One died as a result of his injuries. The Altamont Free Concert was truly one of the darkest moments in rock and roll history. In the film Gimme Shelter, concert footage is interspersed with images of violence and an out of control crowd. The motorsports race track operated under several names and closed in October 2008.

Let it Bleed
The Rolling Stones, Altamont, and the End of the Sixties
by Ethan A. Russell

Windmill and Wind Turbines on Route 580
Livermore, California
Windmills in Livermore, California

Early Livermore (Images of America)
by Livermore Heritage Guild

Livermore Wineaux Wine Bottles with Rope Font Tank Tops
Available in Many Colors, Sizes, and Styles