Calgary's The Von Zippers deliver good ol' gimmicky garage rock


A prominent display of Teutonic iconography is generally something to steer clear of in a band. Iron Crosses and death's heads-to say nothing of swastikas and SS lightning bolts-typically suggest that, in choosing a suitable look, the band in question has opted to forego walking the fine line between clever derring-do and complete stupidity. And if, into the bargain, the band is called something like Nordic Thunder or Rising Storm, well ... hopefully you don't need it spelled out for you.

But add a couple of pointed Kaiser Bill helmets and a Farfisa organ and what do you get? Total genius, that's what! No Hitler worship here; one brief glimpse at a photo of The Von Zippers should be more than enough to allay any lingering fears of pungent Reichrock. And a quick listen to the greasy garage rock they dish out on Bad Generation, their first full-length on Estrus Records (the Cadillac of garage labels) seals the deal. Germanophilia notwithstanding, these Canucks know their stuff. Bad Generation cuts through the smoke like 13 blasts of Ozium. The Von Zippers have borrowed what they need from the garage fakebook and left the rest in a heap by the side of the road, dressing up the basics with a dash of this and a dribble of that, but it still comes out just as fresh and raw as you please. The Saints at their drunkest, maybe, or fellow Canadians The Spaceshits a few RPMs slower, or Montreal's Platon et Les Caves with holes punched in their speaker cones and singing in English. Or Canadian, anyway, which is almost English.

The Von Zippers dish out greasy rock by the helmetful this Saturday.

Given the gimmick, though, one must confess one's disappointment at the thematic nature of The Von Zippers' repertoire. Songs like "Kill That Guy," "It Blows," and "Sick On You" are fairly representative of the lyrical concerns of drunk-since-noon garage rockers, but where in the wide world of sports are all the songs hinted at by what The Von Zippers look like? Where are the songs about Kaiser Wilhelm? Where are the songs about actor Werner Klemperer-better known as dummkopf Stalag commander Colonel Klink from Hogan's Heroes-who seems to have had a particularly strong influence on the band?

No answers were forthcoming from a series of calls to The Von Zippers' Calgary HQ-only the confusing beeps and rattles of what passes for Canadian voice mail technology. However, Estrus Records spokespersons assure us that the trio (or quartet, actually, if you count the guy who donates his organ-arf! arf!-to tracks on Bad Generation) is currently on the road and raising hell in the lower 48, where the band's supposedly over-the-top live show is doubtless winning scores of hearts and minds among American garage rock fans. And garage fans love gimmicks, you know-just look at The Mummies, who dressed up like mummies, or the Rip-Offs, whose onstage garb suggested that the show would be cut short so the band could go out and knock over liquor stores.

The Von Zippers invade Jay's Upstairs on Saturday, May 1 with The Gimmicks and The Everyday Sinners. Cover TBA.

Missoula braces for the rugby and revelry of the 22nd annual Maggotfest


They are probably already here, you just don't know it yet. There are about 500 of them, and they've been arriving in hordes. But don't be afraid-these warriors come in peace.

The 22nd annual Maggotfest rugby tournament takes Missoula by storm this weekend. Thirty-six teams from the Northwest and beyond will descend on the town for four days of rugby, revelry and relaxation.

The melee is hosted by the Missoula Maggots, Montana's most venerable club team, which every year takes on the daunting task of conceptualizing, organizing and chaperoning the fest. According to club Vice President Chad Mickelson, the most difficult part of arranging such a massive event can be just deciding which teams get invited.

Thirty-six teams descend on the Garden City this week. Join the scrum!

"Thirty-six teams is the most we have the capacity to host at one time," Mickelson says. "We always have far more that want to come, but can't. We have a really long waiting list."

Indeed, Maggotfest has expanded greatly from its genesis in the late '70s as a tournament that catered mainly to other Montana teams. As it stands today, the tourney has gained an international reputation, having hosted teams from as far away as England and Canada.

"It's pretty much the premiere tournament in the Northwest for rugby teams," says Dan Wartell, captain of the University of Montana Jesters, who take part in the fest every year. "It's become very well-known throughout the whole country."

Among teams attending this year's tournament is a squad from Cold Lake, Alberta, as well as a military side from Davenport, Iowa, known as Colonel Bogey's Select 15. The Maggots have also lined up a club team from Vail, Colorado as an opponent for the 5:30 p.m. Thursday match that opens the tournament.

Friday, the Vail crew will be treated to a Maggot-tour of Missoula hot spots, as well as a white-water rafting trip on the Lochsa River. The raft trip, Mickelson explains, is a traditional activity for the Maggots and their host club.

"We make sure to get out and show them some Big Sky hospitality," Mickelson says.

In the end, there is no single winner of Maggotfest. All teams go home with a trophy, usually a black ceramic maggot mounted on a wooden base. Awards are also given to the team that performs best on the field. But according to Mickelson, the most coveted trophy is awarded to the Most Honored Side, which accomplishes the most both on and off the pitch.

"Rugby in general is an excellent blend of stiff competition and camaraderie," Mickelson says of Maggotfest's festival-style feel. "That's not just within your own club, but with opposing teams."

Maggotfest's games are open to the public. They won't hurt you.

Maggotfest begins Thursday, April 29 at 5:30 p.m. with a match on the Maggot Field at Fort Missoula. Games continue Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Playfair Park. For more info, go to


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