Just days after Canadian punk pioneers Teenage Head made rock music history with a riotous performance at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, they set out on their first east coast tour. Their first stop – Luna Pizza in Oromocto, New Brunswick.
On December 1, 1978, a riot broke out at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern. Following performances by early Canadian punk pioneers The Mods, The Secrets, The Viletones and others, Hamilton born first wave forerunners Teenage Head took the stage and launched into their song, Picture My Face, the title track off their debut 7” single which had come out earlier that year. Then the police showed up and shut the show down.
Within a few hours the concert was shut down by the police and a riot ensued on Queen St West that almost destroyed the building.
The night’s lineup had been billed as “the last punk show in Toronto.” After more and more venues began refusing to book punk rock bands of any kind, the concert promoting duo of Gary Cormier and Gary Topp – known to many as simply, The Garys – decided to seize the opportunity and give several of the city’s best known punk bands one final show. Teenage Head were the headlining act. The only song they were able to perform that night before the cops pulled the plug was famously documented by filmmaker Colin Brunton for his film, The Last Pogo.
Following this now legendary moment in Canadian rock history, Teenage Head hit the road on their first east coast tour. Their first stop – Luna Pizza in Oromocto, New Brunswick – for a week!
I came across this story after reading an interview with Teenage Head that ran in issue #302 of the now defunct punk rock bible, Maximum Rock ‘n Roll. The feature focused on the band’s early days leading up to the release of their self-titled debut album and touched on the infamous Horseshoe Tavern show among several other notable moments in the band’s formative years. But also – and this is where my amateur local music historian ears perked up – they talked about their first trip east, a three week tour of New Brunswick with week long stints booked in Oromocto, Fredericton and Richiboctu.
“We played one set or something like that, and the club owner just said, ‘That’s it. I don’t want you playing here anymore.'”
I grew up just outside Oromocto. I first got into punk music during my years at Harold Peterson Junior High and later Oromocto High School. When I started going to shows in Fredericton, I learned a lot about the scene’s history just by meeting people in the parking lot before or after a show. There wasn’t a scene in Oromocto. It was just five or six of us who were obsessed with Black Flag and Bad Brains albums and the tapes we bought at shows from bands like NFA, Scapegoats and Lizard. So I’m not really surprised this little nugget of history wasn’t part of our local lore. But after talking to some people from the area who were into punk music in the early 80s, I was surprised to learn that they too were unaware of the details surrounding the band’s week-long stint in Canada’s Model Town. The only detail anyone could recall was the venue – Luna Pizza.
According to Teenage Head bassist Steve Mahon’s comments in the MRR interview I read, the band only made it through one set of what was supposed to be a six day gig before the venue’s owner asked them to stop, and never play again.
“We played one set or something like that, and the club owner just said, ‘That’s it. I don’t want you playing here anymore, but you got to show up every night if I’m gonna pay you. You have to fulfill your contract and be sitting on the edge of the stage for the rest of the week.’ We did that,” said Mahon in the MRR interview.
“He had probably paid a deposit or paid in full, so he couldn’t get his money back,” said Gordon Lewis, the band’s guitar player. “So what he did is he made us show up every single night to drink beer or eat pizza and play pool, but we had to be there from 9:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Just forced to be there for the next six nights.”
This whole story really speaks to just how disconnected the world was in 1978. Back then, if you were trying to find an event to attend and it wasn’t in the paper, it probably wasn’t happening. Teenage Head’s upcoming Fredericton gigs were listed in the paper and because of that, people were waiting to see them play.
In Sam Sutherland’s book, Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk, he mentions the band’s stop in Fredericton and the seven sets they played over six days at The Riverview Arms, a long gone roadhouse that sat practically underneath the Princess Margaret Bridge on Waterloo Row/Lincoln Road.
“When Teenage Head played, it was Monday to Saturday with a matinee on Saturday. We were there every night.”
Peter Rowan, who would later make his mark on the local music scene by organizing festivals, managing bands and starting the city’s first indie rock label, was one of a handful of people excited to see the band when they played Fredericton, and he described his experience in Sutherland’s book.
“I remember going to see Teenage Head, playing at this place called The Riverview Arms, which was this outrageous Tavern underneath the Princess Margaret [Bridge] in Fredericton. We were working at Sam the Record Man in the fucking K-Mart Plaza in Fredericton and we were the punk rockers. When Teenage Head played, it was Monday to Saturday with a matinee on Saturday. We were there every night. Every night there was a group of, like, 15 or 20 of us sitting right up front getting our faces blown off, and a hundred people behind us booing and going, ‘Fuck you! You suck!’”.
The Riverview Arms was a watering hole with one of only a handful of stages where local and touring bands could play.
“I remember talking to an older acquaintance years ago who was a bartender in Fredericton at the time and he said when the Head boys showed up at the bar they were a bit apprehensive about the clientele’s sartorial style,” said Ray Auffrey, bassist for Moncton’s Nerve Button and a great resource for East Coast punk rock history. “It was all guys in lumberjack shirts and Greb work boots. My friend told them not to worry. If they played rock and roll all would be well, and it was.”
Following the band’s Fredericton residency which ran from December 11-16, the third week of the tour was cancelled and they returned to Hamilton.
Teenage Head’s visit in December of 1978 would be the first of many times the band would tour the East Coast. Two years later they would release their breakthrough album, Frantic City, which would become platinum certified in Canada just three years later.