When the history books look back on 1969, what do they see? Woodstock. Altamont. The Stonewall riots. The Zodiac killer. The New Left. Charles Manson. The Weather Underground. That list comes straight off the cover of an actual history book, Rob Kirkpatrick’s new 1969: The Year Everything Changed. When the Fremont Street Experience looks back on 1969, what does it see? The Fifth Dimension, The Grass Roots, Canned Heat, Three Dog Night; these bands are part of FSE’s ongoing Summer of ’69 promotion. “A lot of the bands we booked for this summer were top bands in 1969,” says Thomas Bruny, director of marketing. None appear on the cover of 1969, however, as do Iggy & The Stooges, the MC5 and Let It Bleed—musical references that hint at some of the darker textures and extreme cultural tumult of that watershed American year.
Indeed, Summer of ’69 and the vital history of ’69 pretty much intersect in just two spots: Woodstock (on August 14-16 the Experience will roll out a “Woodstock TributePalooza,” with tribute artists for Hendrix, Joplin, the Dead and others), and Kirkpatrick himself (he recently held a book-signing at FSE).
Now, Las Vegas can alchemize almost anything into a tourist come-on—Egyptian death architecture, anyone?—and, of course, Summer of ’69 is really about the recession of ’09 and the need to keep visitors coming to FSE. Still, it tickles even our jaded fancies to see Vegas cherry-picking the pleasant aspects of a clamorous year from which the most memorable image is arguably the Hell’s Angels killing Meredith Hunter as the Rolling Stones played on.
Then again, if it seems Vegas is missing the real point of 1969, well, it’s not the first time. “Las Vegas was sheltered from 1969,” Kirkpatrick told the Weekly. “1969 was the year the revolution moved from the cities on the coasts to the suburbs of the Midwest. But Las Vegas was one of those places that missed that and had to play catch-up.”