In the biblical retelling of history, Woodstock would be played by Abel and Altamont would be Cain. Gimme Shelter starts out as most rockumentaries do; the band playing live in concert. The Rolling Stores are kicking off their American tour playing in New York City and there is a feeling of optimism which seems to radiate off all of them. This is cross-cut with the Stones in a film editing room watching this concert footage, but here they are strangely subdued. The documentary flips back and forth between them seeing the footage in this room and us being shown the footage.
There is more of the Stones performing live in different part of the U.S. along with several behind the scenes negotiation leading up to the Altamont concert which acts as the climax. The final 40 minutes of this 90 minute documentary is solely the Festival being set up and then the actual day of the concert which is very uncomfortable to watch. The event is in shambles from the very start. The "peace & love" vibe is nowhere to been seen. Much of the crowd seems too fucked up or too ampted up to be among the teaming mass of 300 thousand other people. Mick Jagger is punched in the face soon after arriving. The Hell's Angels were casually hired for security, but ended up causing more fights than stopping them. There are assorted freakouts which are horrifying to witness. People seem ready to kill each other or at least fight for no reason. It looked and felt ugly. The film ends with footage of a man with a gun charging the stage and getting stabbed by one of the Angels and stomped on by the rest.
The 60s didn't end in a marijuana cloud of good times and worldly love, but with the deaths of four people (not to mention multiple injuries) at what was suppose to be the bookend to the Woodstock Festival. Some dreams don't fade away, but are cut down and die bloody.