There is no shortage of revisionist punk rock docs — trust me, I have seen them all.
The late ’70s first wave scenes of New York and London are more than well documented. Thankfully there always seem to be people like Don Letts with his Super8 capturing the spit and mohair jumpers at the Roxy, while Punk magazine, led by Legs McNeil and John Holmstrom, got the CBGB’s scene down on the printed page. Things were bubbling under in Los Angeles with the Masque club scene and there was also great proto-punk happening in places like Cleveland (Pagans, the Electric Eels, Rocket From the Tombs). But Toronto never really got a fair shake in being portrayed as a formative and significant scene in the beginning of punk, 1977.
If you were to ask punk rock’s main players of the day, like the Ramones (one of the bruddahs’ first shows out of New York was at the New Yorker Theatre in Toronto!), Dead Boys, Talking Heads etc, Toronto was the triangle point along with New York and London. Toronto “the Good” boasted an exclusive punk rock club, Crash and Burn, run by punk/pop band the Diodes as well as promoters the Two Garys, who were more than willing to take chances on this commercially unproven genre. As a result of this support and infrastructure, you got incredible local punk bands like Teenage Head, the Viletones, the Ugly and more experimental rockers spilling out onto Queen Street from the Ontario College of Art.
All good things must end, though, and promoters the Two Garys hosted a night signifying the end of the first wave of punk at the tiny venue the Horseshoe, featuring bands Teenage Head, a revamped Viletones, the Mods and more. Director/producer Colin Brunton, much like London’s Don Letts, happened to be in the right place at the right time and captured the historically significant show with a sort of fuzzy clarity — the night quickly unfolded into a riot when undercover cops attempted to shut it down. Much like almost every musician who graced the stage that night (and certainly the majority of the punk scene at the time), Brunton’s footage is pretty amateurish, but like a smash and bash chord emanating from the Les Paul Jr. of the Head’s Gordie Lewis, the spirit and the passion is definitely all there.
The original DVD copy of The Last Pogo was a revelation over a decade ago, but this re-release — The Last Pogo Jumps Again — is utterly mandatory. Brunton goes far further in-depth, while using his original footage as a jumping off point and stuffing the new DVD with a running time of nearly three and a half hours, with nary a duff moment. Viletones singer and punk legend Steven Lechie is worth the price of admission alone. Brunton is able to shed light on the heroin use that marred the pre-hardcore punk years, the casualties that were cast adrift after the scene collapsed, the sense of DIY community that ultimately provided the fuel and how the first wave of the Toronto punk scene continues to influence and provide a bedrock for the DIY and underground music community all over the world.
A deluxe double DVD of the documentary is available, but if a hardcopy is too cumbersome for you, The Last Pogo Jumps Again is also available on most digital platforms and should prove to be one of the best punk rock docs you will ever see — if not the best. ■
Current Obsession: Scientist, Scientific Dub
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