Rock was born as a voice speaking against the exploitation and injustice experienced by African Americans in the American South. Nobody imagined it would become the most popular musical genre, one that has lasted more than anyone expected. With hundreds of styles, artists, and unforgettable moments, there have been amazing festivals for peace or the environment. But there have been some that have proven rock can be dangerous as well.
All these moments began as massive presentations, yet they went down in history not because of the music, but because eventually things got out of hand, the tension reached a breaking point and the violence began.
These are concerts, controversial statements, and points in time when rock music was publicly blamed and demonized. These events of recent history show how the euphoria of youth, recklessness, and total loss of control, became synonymous with the genre of guitar solos, mosh pits, and rebellion.
Here are some defining moments that proved the world the power of rock music.
Guns N’ Roses and Metallica in Montreal
At the beginning of the nineties, GNR and Metallica were two of the most popular bands in the world. “Use Your Illusion” and “Black” could be heard on any radio station, not to mention how their joint tour was a hit. That is until August 8, 1992 happened. A miscalculation with the stage fireworks led to James Hetfield’s arm and part of his face getting burned. The frontman left the stage amidst the injuries. Then Axl Rose stated his voice was off that day, leaving after the fourth song. The angered fans reacted to their disappointment through confrontations with law enforcement and damages all over the city.
Altamont Speedway Free Festival
On December 6, 1969, The Rolling Stones had a live show with Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and other Northern Californian artists. Some saw this as another Woodstock. However, the security of the event was handed over to the Hell’s Angels. Overcrowding, drugs, and chaos led to the biker gang killing one of the festival’s attendees. Also three people died accidentally, leading to the end of the Hippie innocence.
While many believed this would be the resurgence of 1969’s summer of love, this event proved to be quite the opposite. This festival is now symbolic of violence, destruction, rape, assault, mugging, and arson. While many wanted to promote the music at the turn of the millennium, this proved to be suicidal.
“More popular than Jesus”
At one point The Beatles were the most popular band out there, and perhaps they still are. At the beginning of their career they were seen as nice guys, but all that changed in 1966, when they took a turn towards the personality that would define them in consequent years. John Lennon made a public statement on the Christianity’s decline and how, at that moment, the band was more popular than Jesus himself. When his words reached the United States, particularly the South, Anti-Beatles picketing and protests began. It wasn’t long before the band received threats and records were burned as a way of proving disdain for the four guys from Liverpool.
The Police in Argentina
The Argentinean dictatorship proved to be one of the most violent moments in Latin American history, responsible for the disappearance and death of thousands of its citizens. In 1980 The Police visited the South American country. When the British trio began their presentation, people began to scream and dance like they would do at any other concert. However, the law enforcement did not agree with this and began to forcefully repress the attendees. Andy Summers, the band’s guitarist, kicked one of the officers, escalating to confrontation between authorities and fans. The English musician was praised by locals for his act of bravery.
Music has the power to expose our most basic instincts as it is able to calm us down. These moments demonstrate that a small dose of chaos can change things and be dangerous. However, music is not to blame. We should strive to channel our energy in other ways.
You can read more about the events that transpired at the Altamont Free Festival or The Police's tour in Argentina and Chile during the regimes.
Translated by María Suárez