The camera doesn’t record memories as much as it creates them.  These moments can now not be forgotten:  the naked and drug-addled being escorted to the medical tent; a man wearing a sparkly Star-Spangled outfit, puffing from a furry bong the size of a hockey stick; the woman on-stage who says, petulantly, “But I wanna see Mick Jagger, goddammit.”  Throughout Gimme Shelter, the Rolling Stones watch the footage, as if it holds clues to their own memories of their 1969 North American tour, which ended at the infamous Altamont Speedway concert:  what did they see?  What could they have done?  They listen to a radio call-in show recapping the Altamont concert, with Ralph ‘Sonny’ Barger, one of the Hell’s Angels, giving his side of the story, and afterwards, Charlie Watts says, sardonically, “Well done, Sonny.”   When the film reaches the moment when Meredith Hunter gets stabbed in the back.  Jagger asks to see it again.  The Moviola freezes on a knife blade flashing in the air.  Then Maysles winds it backwards, and Hunter pulls a gun, its shape visible against a girl’s crotchet dress.

*

Memorializing one’s life has become ubiquitous.  Video clips, photographs—with these artifacts, we can rifle through our memories, parsing their significance.  What did this moment mean?  Nowadays, you can’t go to a concert without someone hold up his phone for the entirety of the performance.   What will he remember of it?  How does he re-live the experience?  Does he sing along?  Are his eyes dazzled by the strobe lights, the smoke machines, the trembling of his own hand?

*

I saw Skinny Puppy on their Too Dark Park tour.  The stage featured rubberized trees that, in the light, looked wet with slime.  Faces were twisted into the bark.  Behind the band, a back projection showed a loop of atrocities:  war crimes, Lucio Fulci clips, animal experiments, Microsoft Windows 3.0 graphics.  At one point, the lead singer, Ogre, was tied into a chair with medical tubing and and ‘injected’ with neon fluids.  His bandmates strapped metal stilts to his arms and legs, and for the duration of the concert, he loped around the stage, a Goth giraffe.

*

I still have the t-shirt from the concert, a stippled close-up from the album’s cover art:  a demonic, tentacled face.  It’s the only physical reminder I have of the concert, and I’ve stopped wearing it.  The image has started to crack and flake away, and the black of the shirt itself has faded to a dingy gray.  And to be honest:  I can hardly remember much of the concert itself.  Much of what I ‘remember’ was provided by other sources.  But I’m sure it happened that way, anyway.

*

In 1991, Skinny Puppy released their Tormentor single, which featured the track “Harsh Stone White,” recorded live in Denver.  I imagine I can hear myself cheering, clapping, begging for “Worlock,” and I can see myself, the only skinny Asian 16-year old at the concert, skirting the mosh pit, inching my way up to the stage, and my 37-year old self, now sporting a mohawk for the summer, crosses his arms and says, Well done, sonny.

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