You Should See: The Last Pogo Jumps Again

Well, thank fuck: it seems as if people may finally be ready to start paying a bit more attention to the history of music in Toronto. It's about bloody time. Recently, there have been a whole series of popular projects exploring the city's music scenes from days gone by: from the sounds of 1960s Yorkville (Before The Gold Rush) to the rock and soul of the Yonge Street Strip (Yonge Street: Toronto Rock & Roll Stories) to 1970s Queen Street punk (Treat Me Like Dirt). Not to mention, *ahem*, the Toronto Historical Jukebox.

And now there's the epic, three-hour punk doc The Last Pogo Jumps Again. It's playing on the big screen this week for what may very well be the last time. You can catch it at the Royal tonight (Feb. 26 at 9pm) and on Sunday afternoon (March 2 at 4pm).

It's from Colin Brunton — the same filmmaker who was there to capture the legendary "Last Pogo" show at the Horseshoe back in 1978 — and Kire Paputts. But while the original was a concert film, this is a full-on exploration of the entire punk scene that flourished in Toronto during the late 1970s. In those years, our city was producing some of the very best punk rock in the entire world, with bands just as good as some of the ones getting famous in London and New York. The Last Pogo Jumps Again introduces you to many of them — The Viletones, The Diodes, Teenage Head, The Curse, The Ugly, The Scenics, The 'B' Girls, The Government, The Mods, The Demics, The Dishes... on and on and on — and to the people who helped build the scene. If you don't already know the music, the film makes for a jaw-dropping education. If you do, the footage and the anecdotes are essential viewing. Steven Leckie of The Viletones performs with blood streaming down his arms. The makers of the Pig Paper zine tell the story of stealing their first typewriter. The Curse wear bikinis made of tampons. There are brawls and drugs and police raids and outrage. And, through it all, a staggering burst of creativity.

But the documentary doesn't stop there. While the greatest punk bands from the scenes in London and New York landed major records deals, toured the world, got rich and had long careers, pretty much none of the bands in Toronto ever found that kind of financial success. The few who did make it onto major labels either got screwed over or screwed it up. And those were a very lucky few: the record industry — and many fans — just didn't take Canadian music seriously. The Last Pogo Jumps Again explores the consequences: the film's present-day interviews with the aging punks don't just look back on the scene, but also show what's happened to some of them in the 35 years since. You follow The Viletones' Freddie Pompeii as he picks up his methadone. You watch the late Frankie Venom of Teenage Head nodding off during a radio interview. In one scene, Leckie picks a fight in a coffee shop. In another, he's not even sure where he is.

Today, bands from Toronto are among the most famous bands in the world. And they aren't forced to leave the city in order to make it big. (Hell, I saw members of Broken Social Scene and The Hidden Cameras at a gig in a small club just last night.) The punks of the late 1970s don't get to enjoy it, but they helped make it happen: by staying in our city, by fighting for their rightful place in our culture, by influencing the generations who would follow. It's not an exaggeration to say they changed Toronto. And that, I think, is important to remember. The Last Pogo Jumps Again is a very good place to start.


Again, the film is screening at the Royal tonight (Feb. 26 at 9pm) and on Sunday afternoon (March 2 at 4pm). A DVD release is planned for the summer. The official website is here.

If you want to listen to some of the bands, I've linked all those band names above with stuff on YouTube.

Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at This post also appears on the Toronto Dreams Project Historical Ephemera Blog. Find more about the history of music in Toronto on the Toronto Historical Jukebox

Follow Colin Brunton on Twitter here and Kire Paputts here.


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