Photos provided by Chipster PR

The latest release from legendary Canadian punk band Teenage Head, Performance: Live At Heatwave, is a comprehensive package documenting one of the most iconic events in their career. They were scheduled to headline a festival at Exhibition Stadium on Toronto’s lakeshore in late August 1980. But those plans were waylaid by a gentleman by the name of Alice Cooper, who incited a riot at the venue after bailing on his own concert.

“We were supposed to play the next night,” explains Teenage Head bassist Steve Mahon.

“I think I remember seeing the news on CityTV of people actually throwing metal chairs at the stage. It became pretty obvious that there wasn’t going to be anything happening that night, and obviously the next night as well. So that show never happened.”

At the time, Teenage Head were having a bit of a moment. So much so that they had even had their own riot just two months earlier. They were offered the last minute opportunity to open the Heatwave Festival in Bowmanville, Ontario just a few days after their cancelled show was to take place. The festival had an eclectic lineup of acts including The B-52s, Talking Heads, The Pretenders, and Elvis Costello.

“We’d come off a high,” explains Mahon.

“We’d just played Ontario Place in June, and you know what happened down there. That was another riot. We had some momentum built up from playing at Ontario Place and playing a whole bunch of different high schools in Southern Ontario. One thing you have to remember is that we were on real early. I think it was probably about 10 o’clock in the morning. But there was still maybe 40,000 people there. I think a lot of people had camped overnight. We were added on last minute, so we weren’t part of the advertising for Heatwave. So I think a few people were surprised when we hit the stage, pleasantly surprised! It just worked out really well when we played Heatwave. Really, really good response.”

After their set the band headed out to Kitchener to play a show and didn’t get to rub elbows with any of the Heatwave headliners. But their set that day lived on as Toronto radio station Q107 recorded it for broadcast. A broadcast which was re-taped by enthusiastic fans and went on to become a legendary bootleg.

“It was done on an analog tape machine, obviously,” explains Mahon.

“Someone was set up there, I think they were supposed to record the whole festival. From what I understand, a lot of the bands didn’t agree to be recorded, it was just us. We said ‘go ahead, film us, records us, no problem.’ But a few weeks after, we went in and mixed it, because it was getting aired on Q107 for a Halloween broadcast. So we may have never done anything with that tape, other than for the fact that we needed it, because (guitarist) Gord (Lewis) got really hurt up bad in a car accident a couple weeks after playing Heatwave. It’s funny how all these different events factor in to why things happen.”

The car accident put a dent in the band’s momentum. So the Heatwave set serves as a record of a very special time in their history. Mahon started looking into getting it a proper release around 2016-2017. There were a few labels interested in the project, but they all went into a holding pattern once the Covid pandemic hit. Things weren’t looking good until Seattle company Sing Media got involved. Having a physical product to release is something that means a lot to Mahon, especially when it comes to a recording that has been bootlegged multiple times over four decades.

“In the back of my mind I always felt this recording needed to be released,” he says.

“We’ve probably got dozens and dozens of live shows that had been taped through the years. Some just on cassettes at the soundboard, others we did for broadcast for radio stations, and they were ok. But there was just something about this one that made me realize (that) I had to do something with it, to try and get it out there some way. I would have been happy if it could have just been in the streaming services. But to see it come out on vinyl it’s… it’s worthy of that. You drop that needle on the vinyl, it’s a really nice way of listening to music and I think that’s why vinyl has never left.”

The Heatwave recording was remastered by Peter Moore at the E-Room studio in Toronto. The package also sees a proper release for the documentary Picture My Face – The Story of Teenage Head that was previously only aired on the TVO network. 2024 marks the 50th anniversary of Teenage Head, and the band played a celebratory show in their home town of Hamilton last month. The current lineup includes Mahon on bass, Gene Champagne on drums, Dave “Rave” DesRoches on vocals, and new guitarist Trent Carr from The Headstones. The tragic passing of original guitarist Gord Lewis in 2022 still looms large in the hearts and minds of many fans. But Mahon points out that many classic bands have lost members over the years, and cites a recent album by one of his favourites as a good example.

“Dave, our singer, gave me a copy of the new Stones album, Hackneyed Diamonds, and I was like ‘really, another Stones album?’” he says with a bit of a laugh.

“Believe it or not it’s a really good album, a really good album. So go figure, you start feeling old and you start thinking about ‘Well are we gonna keep going, are we gonna write songs?’ and then the Stones put a new album out. It really comes down to whether you’re having fun or not, and it is really fun now. We’ve got Trent Carr playing guitar, and he’s just having such a good time. He told me that when he started to learn how to play guitar he listened to our first album. So it’s just an honour to have someone like him even in the band right now. So we’ve got a really good band and I mean, look at the Stones, they’ve lost so many members.”

You can get your own copy of Performance: Live At Heatwave from Sing Media here