Press Enter to Search

Say What?

pogo2posterFINAL2The Last Pogo Jumps Again studies the evolution of Toronto from small town to big city and it’s pop/counter-culture lifestyle during the early and mid-70s.  It centers around the first wave of Toronto punk rock and new-wave music, from the Ramones playing the New Yorker Theatre in ’76 through the police shutting down Teenage Head and causing a riot at the Horseshoe Tavern’s infamous “The Last Pogo” concert in December 1978.

London had the Sex Pistols, New York had the Ramones, but Toronto had a punk movement all it’s own.  The Toronto landscape by the late ’70s was forever changed with the infusion of the DIY/Punk/Alternative Culture(s) movement.  Six years in the making, The Last Pogo Jumps Again successfully explores the whys and wherefores of what was arguably one of the most exciting but misunderstood movements in Toronto’s history.

The DVD contains the 204 minute documentary, plus over a 100 minutes of added material, and a snazzy 24-page booklet.  Check the Shop for details on where you can purchase it.

The Last Pogo (1978) is the documentary that chronicled the last punk rock show at the Horseshoe Tavern when it was run by legendary Toronto promoters The Garys (Topp and Cormier) featuring The Scenics, Cardboard Brains, The Secrets, The Mods, The Ugly, The Viletones and Teenage Head. The Last Pogo was released on DVD in 2008 to great reviews.  Available at the Shop.

Bringing Toronto punk to the world, 30 years later.

From the November ’08 issue of Alternative Press (AP)

NOTE:  This blog is updated whenever something new comes in.

Since so many of our pals have asked, here’s what some of the reviewers we sent advance copies of The Last Pogo DVD to had to say.  Pogolicist Woody Whelan has been pounding the pavement, and getting busy at the Post Office, and working the phones and all that and his hard work is paying off.  The above pic is from the latest issue (November 2008) of AP (Alternative Press) who interviewed director Colin Brunton.

TORONTO SUN:  (Three stars out of four)  In 1978 budding filmmaker Colin Brunton shot what was billed as the final punk gig at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern.  Three decades on, his no-frills 26-minute mini-doc has finally made it’s way to DVD.  Sure, most of these bands are long gone and forgotten, with the exception of Teenage Head.  Even so, this literally riotous show is a blast from Can-punk’s young, loud, snotty past.”

TORONTO STAR:  “Colin Brunton would have preferred it if the DVD release this past week of his 1978 Toronto-punk documentary The Last Pogo hadn’t doubled as a tribute to late Teenage Head frontman Frankie Venom, but it’s kind of worked out that way.

Available for 30 years only in bootlegs culled from a few CityTV airings back in the day, The Last Pogo – in which Teenage Head gets both the first and last words onscreen and serves as the catalyst for a minor riot in the Horseshoe Tavern when the police cut its performance off after just one song – finally landed in stores on Tuesday. The next day, Brunton got a call from former Viletones singer Steven Leckie saying: “You’re not gonna believe this. Frankie’s dead.”

“It’s horrible, man,” he confesses. “It just feels kinda creepy. Some of the stores are selling out now. Not by the hundreds, obviously – it’s a handful – but you don’t want someone to die to bring attention to this awesome scene we had … It’s not like I have a personal relationship with everyone who buys it online, but everyone keeps sending these little, happy notes. `Remember when Frankie did this?’ It’s kinda neat.”

Instead of toasting The Last Pogo‘s long-fought release to the general public, Brunton was heading to Hamilton yesterday with Leckie and a host of friends from Toronto’s late-’70s punk underground to say “a final goodbye to Frankie,” a performer he’ll always hold in the highest esteem.

“They were a f—ing great act to see,” he says. “Frankie would get onstage – I’ve seen this so many times – and he would hang from his knees on, like, piping at Larry’s Hideaway and he’d be completely upside-down singing, and when the song was over he’d just let himself go. He wouldn’t even try to stop himself and he’d land on his f—ing head.”

Brunton’s got dozens of great yarns about T.O.’s original dalliance with punk, and he spins them with the enthusiasm of the 23-year-old kid who blundered into filmmaking when he decided to document the infamous Last Pogo concert at the ‘Shoe on Dec. 1, 1978.

The show ended in much smashed glass and splintered wood when a couple of detectives pulled the plug for overcrowding. Although not, fortunately, before Brunton – who would go on to produce the Bruce McDonald classics Roadkill and Highway 61 and other Canadian films – and his crew had committed some dynamic performances by such oft-forgotten acts as the Viletones, the Scenics, the Ugly and the Cardboard Brains to film.

He’s never made a dime, of course, from The Last Pogo and the DVD is a similarly self-financed labour of love that’ll only break even if he sells every single copy.

Still, the film was never meant as anything more than a love letter to a vibrant period in Toronto rock `n’ roll history that has largely gone unnoticed by the history books. And, in that spirit, Brunton has for the past two years begun work during downtime from co-producing Little Mosque on the Prairie on a sequel tentatively dubbed The Last Pogo Jumps Again.

“It’s become this huge hobby of mine,” says Brunton, who’s amassed a “couple hundred” hours of interviews with people from the original film. “What I’ve realized is people don’t change. Whoever that guy was in 1978, this is what he’s doing now. People who were kinda messed up back then are still kinda messed up. Or dead. Or in prison. But, like, the drummer for the Cardboard Brains, back in the day, had the craziest ambition – he wanted to be a banker. And now he’s an offshore banker in the Bahamas.”

The ultimate goal? “I wanna find the cop. I’ve gotta find the detective who shut the show down. I wanna find out how drunk you were that night, buddy, `cause they were sitting at the bar all night.”

CHART ATTACK, CANADA:  “The Last Pogo is a great piece of original Canadian punk history from the ’70s. It deals with an event at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern that ended a nine-month run of spectacular punk and new wave bands from around the world gracing the venue’s stage. When the club owners had had enough, the promoters, the infamous Garys, decided to have one final blowout to celebrate their tenure.

Thus, The Last Pogo was born and a chaotic collection of Toronto punkers like The Ugly, The Mods, The Scenics, The Secrets, The Viletones and Teenage Head thrashed about for all they were worth. In fact, they got so out of control the cops showed up and only let Teenage Head do one song, which, of course, led to a riot that saw the club get somewhat trashed.

This 26 minute documentary was actually the first film by Canadian filmmaker Colin Brunton, who has since produced such films as Cube and Hedwig And The Angry Inch and has currently been working on CBC’s Little Mosque On The Prairie.

The film resembles a good punk song in several different ways. It’s not overly long, it’s in your face and you’re left wanting more. Luckily, we will get just that, as Brunton appears to be using this to get the buzz going for next year when he releases a feature length documentary entitled The Last Pogo Jumps Again, a history of the Toronto-Hamilton-London punk axis circa ’76-78″

AUSTIN CHRONICLE, TEXAS: “…neatly captured the sneer and swagger of 30-year-old punk without snickering or jabbing you in the ribs. The beauty of The Last Pogo is that it is Everypunk’s story. Skinny ties, nerdy lead singers, angry young men, short songs with sharp chords. The brief interviews reveal bursts of enthusiasm, passionate, ideological beliefs, plus the usual in-fighting between bands.”

BIG TAKEOVER, NYC“Wow! I’ve been hearing about this 25-minute movie for 29 years, and it’s amazing to view it now! What a window to a time that was rarely documented: the pre-hardcore, original punk era when it was astonishingly fresh, creative, rule-busting, and shot full of newborn energy/excitement…It’s not just the dancing and pogoing creatively dressed, jazzed, skinny people—no idiot slam dancing and sneers—or the notorious sweaty buzz the crowd gets from seven wired, wiry bands, or the pleasant sight of punk’s front row ringed with women—led by impossibly cute punkette co-host Margarita Passion. It’s that this was an art-meets-music lightning flash the likes of which has never been replicated. Short but absolutely essential history comes alive!

MAXIMUM ROCK ‘N’ ROLL, USA:  ““Wondering what was happening in Toronto, Canada in 1978?  THE LAST POGO documents the last night of punk rock at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern on December 1, 1978…great film.”

SUBURBAN VOICE, BOSTON: “This was the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to see live footage of these bands and it definitely whets the appetite for more.  Because, while not all the bands here are mesmerizing, I’m a punk history buff and enjoyed seeing it documented at the time it unfolded, as opposed to a more “modern” take like “American Hardcore.” Just a few extras—commentary by Chris Haight from the Viletones that you can play with the film and there’s also a full recorded-in-the-studio set from the Scenics that showcases their taut approach.”

THE LEFT HIP, MONTREAL “The Last Pogo is a great and enjoyable document of the fashion and music of that Toronto scene of the time. Both the sound and footage are surprisingly high-quality, especially in comparison to a lot of the sadly primitive documentation from the early punk and hardcore years. The bands are good too – if you actually find yourself watching this obscure DVD, you either already know and love these bands or you will want to seek out some records after seeing the film.”

EYE WEEKLY, TORONTO “THE LAST POGO, the legendary 30-minute short documenting “the last” punk rock show at the Horseshoe Tavern in 1978, finally gets a DVD release on Tuesday.  The film features performances by Teenage Head, The Viletones, The Scenics and more, a glimpse of the near-riot that, ultimately, didn’t so much knock Toronto’s punk scene on the head as kick it into the future.”

CHART MAGAZINE, TORONTO “While Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern is a fairly conventional live music establishment nowadays, at one time it was a punk rock haven. Back in 1978, the venue was booked by The Garys (Gary Topp and Gary Cormier), who brought in such notables as The Ramones and The Cramps. They also helped nurture the thriving scenes in Toronto, Hamilton and London. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and the end always came faster in the explosive punk rock world. After only nine months, the venue gave The Garys the final headbutt, so they decided they might as well blow the doors off the place on the way out. This final show, dubbed The Last Pogo, featured the cream of the local punk rock crop at that time: Teenage Head, The Ugly, The Cardboard Brains, The Mods, The Viletones, The Scenics and The Secrets. Unfortunately, it also featured the wanton destruction of the room after the cops forced Teenage Head off the stage.”

THE COAST, HALIFAX “Even if you’re not into 1970s Canadian punk, this doc is worth a watch for the crowd shots of oft-replicated skinny jeans and ties, teased hair and sunglasses. Be sure to watch it with the commentary on—Viletone Chris Haight doesn’t offer any insight, but his lack of memory of the event is pure Spinal Tap.”

VUE WEEKLY, EDMONTON “The Last Pogo features one song from each of the bands and a few short quotes from people involved with the show spread throughout its 26 minutes—the result being a film that simply captures a moment in time, rather than trying to explain exactly what the Last Pogo was about.”

MONTREAL MIRROR Finally seeing the light of day this week, three decades after its initial completion in 1979, is this short film by director Colin Brunton. The film documents the Last Pogo festival that happened on Dec. 1, 1978 at Toronto’s famed Horseshoe. Although a little light on the goods, there are great live performances by all the bands that played on the bill—the Cardboard Brains, the Secrets, the Mods, the Ugly, the Viletones (!) and, for my money, one of Canada’s best punk rock ’n’ roll bands, Teenage Head. Things are indeed a little lean here, but the bonus footage of a cable TV performance by highly underrated Scenics proves quality will always win out over quantity.

EYE WEEKLY, TORONTO The audience also gets good and angry at the Horseshoe Tavern in The Last Pogo, Colin Brunton’s appropriately rough-hewn 27-minute film about the club’s last night as a punk venue in 1978. Too bad there isn’t more archival footage on this long-awaited DVD edition — it’s augmented only by a TV performance by VU revivalists The Scenics and a commentary by The Secrets’ Chris Haight that would be more useful if he remembered anything at all about the evening in question. Oh, well — that’s Hogtown rock ’n’ roll for ya.

METRO, CANADA “…The Last Pogo, which is like Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz, only with fewer stars and higher decibels. Co-directed by filmmaker Colin Brunton and his teacher Patrick Lee, The Last Pogo comes off like a great punk song — short (26 minutes) and unsweet.   You don’t have to be a punk aficionado to enjoy this documentary, which hits theatres Tuesday. Everyone will get a kick out of the self-importance displayed by The Viletones in an interview, and some of the performances are hilarious as the musicians try real hard to be outlandish.  The camera work on Pogo is exceptional, and Brunton and Lee effectively mix interviews with concert footage from the club.  With more than 500 people shoehorned into the Horseshoe, and escalating tensions a la Altamont, this should be a shambles. Instead, we get an up-close look at the night from both the performers’ and the audience’s perspective.  That is, until the scene predictably degenerates. But when the cops show up and the chairs and bottles start flying, it’s time to put safety first. At least the sound guy recorded the scene.”

And our favourites so far:

TORONTO STAR, TORONTO:  “Punker than you’ll ever be.”

DANNY FIELDS: “It’s great!”

JOHN HARVEY:  “Now THIS is a fucken’ documentary!”

There are no comments yet, add one below.
t Twitter f Facebook g Google+