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Playback: Later Chumps!

Chumps say, 'So long, sucker,' while Trent Reznor says hello to Explosions in the sky.

By Kevin Curtin, Fri., June 14, 2013

Group hug: McGowan, Holtz, Fox, and Nowhere
Group hug: McGowan, Holtz, Fox, and Nowhere
Photo courtesy of Larry Stern

"Hey Mom! Hey Dad! Hey Boss! Hey God! I'm a fucking chump. I'm all fucked up. I want to be demoted!"

So declares the warped wails of Sean McGowan on the Chumps' titular tune, which, along with other lovably deranged mini-anthems like "Mopac Rapist," "I Got a Problem," and "Fuck You, I'm Rich," helped cement the Chumps among the most memorable and longest-lasting bands born in Austin's Nineties punk scene.

McGowan, bassist Frankie Nowhere, and guitarist Duane Holtz came together in 1995 and became a show-stopping act in an era of gritty, weird bands like the Fuckemos and the Motards, who marked their territory at bygone punk dives like the Bates Motel and Blue Flamingo. Core member Aaron Fox became a Chump in 1997 when he put the kibosh on a near breakup by insisting on filling their drum-kit vacancy.

"That's when we really started to gel and it became like a gang," remembers Nowhere.

Chumps live shows became legendary acts of public mayhem that no band wanted to follow, with their vinyl discography compiled on a modestly-titled collection called Invent Rock & Roll. The self-proclaimed "Rock City Rejects" found hometown immortality using heart and charisma, not that "musical talent" bullshit.

Though Chumps production halted in 2000 to deal with bad habits, they returned in 2006 with a second wind – unexpected longevity for an epically reckless band. Now, 18 years after forming, the Chumps hang up their Chuck Taylors forever.

"Usually bands end on a big 'Fuck you, I'm outta here,'" points out Nowhere.

Not the Chumps. Their amicable dissolution is out of respect for McGowan, who's heading north to spend time with his parents.

"I don't want my folks to be gone before I have a chance to hang out with them," McGowan laments. "I wasn't good enough when I was a kid, and I don't want to leave it like I've left it."

The Chumps get the send-off they deserve, with a final album, Gimme Headache, being released by stalwart local imprint Super Secret Records early next year and a farewell show this Friday at the Legendary White Swan (see also "Music Listings," p.96).

"I'm worried about ending the last song," McGowan sighs. "I hope I don't just collapse because I know I'm never going to do something like this again. I'm never going to get the accolades of having five people on my back while trying to sing. That's living a dream. Two months down the road, I know I'll be feeling a great loss."

"Because you won't be a Chump?" I ask.

"I'll always be a chump!" he laughs. "I'm fairly certain we all will."

Explosions in the Sky Go to War

Last week came the announcement that local instrumental rockers Explosions in the Sky are taking their triumphant live show on the road with industrial legends Nine Inch Nails for 19 dates this fall, including a November 5 performance at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.

"Trent Reznor is someone we all respect, because he really charts his own journey – nobody tells him what to do," reports EITS drummer Chris Hrasky by phone, adding that their inclusion on the tour came out of the blue.

Since wrapping up promotion for 2011 release Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, EITS has stayed busy by practicing that which first brought them national attention: scoring. Collaborating with David Wingo on the Prince Avalanche soundtrack (revisit "Great World of Sound," May 24), which hits music retailers in August, they've also scored Lone Survivor for director Peter Berg, who they worked with on Friday Nights Lights.

"Lone Survivor is a horrifying war movie, a really messed-up, disturbing story," says Hrasky. "It was difficult watching people get their heads blown off over and over again, and recording music to it. They wanted something nontraditional, upsetting and frightening, which was fun for us because people often think of our music as big and uplifting. This is a lot darker and unpleasant. It's the weirdest thing we've ever done."

Universal Pictures has slated Lone Survivor, which stars "Marky Mark" Wahlberg, for a December release, strategic timing for Oscar bait.

Guess the FFFFest

Worn out by the spring deluge of music festivals, which for a journalist means constant preview, review, and shitting in porta-potties, I breathed a sigh of relief when Chaos in Tejas – the last major fest of the season – drew to a close. That relief lasted only days before the hype machines began ratcheting up interest for the area's fall gatherings.

Fun Fun Fun Fest just launched its yearly Guess the Fest contest. It's easy: Log in using your social media handles at Guessthefest.com and pick bands you think will play at FFF8. Those with the most accurate guesses win lucrative prizes, including the Fly-In: two plane tickets and Homie passes to the fest; Access: two weekend passes and watching your favorite band from side stage; and Gang-of-4: four weekend passes.

Here are a few helpful hints: no Daft Punk. They'll hold out for Coachella. Also, don't expect to see the shameful combo of Blink 182 and Fallout Boy that Chicago's Riot Fest, which sometimes shares Black Stage headliners with FFF, booked.

"If we did that, our fans would murder us," FFF co-founder James Moody commented.

Here's a handful of artists that have my spidey senses tingling: Ghost B.C., Skeletonwitch, Dinosaur Jr., Black Flag (either version or both), the Oblivians, and R. Kelly. The latter performs at the Pitchfork Music Festival this year and FFF owners Moody and Graham Williams were spotted at his Mother's Day event last May. Now start your own prognosticating.

UtopiaFest, the idyllic Hill Country musical campout Sept. 20-21, announced a partial lineup including the Eels; EOTO; Blackalicious; He's My Brother, She's My Sister; the Wheeler Brothers; and Grupo Fantasma. While the remaining lineup comes to light in July, I'm told additional headliners will be announced next week. Located a couple hours south of Austin in Utopia, the fest stands out from the pack with its BYOB policy, free camping, no overlapping music, and capped capacity to keep it uncrowded. Tickets are on sale now.

Half Notes

Playback: Later Chumps!

Gary Clark Jr. exercised his wah-wah pedal last Friday on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, doing a guest spot with R&B singer the Dream. They were backed by unmatched house band the Roots on a boiling version of "Too Easy," off the Dream's recently released IV Play album, on which Clark lends his axe. While the Austin native has, in the last few years, enjoyed collabs with legends like the Rolling Stones, B.B. King, and Eric Clapton, this performance marks a continued effort for the 29-year-old bluesman to jam with rappers and R&B singers including Nas, Alicia Keys, and Austin MC Phranchyze.

› The Daft Punk Rolling Stone magazine came absolutely chock-full of Austin-related content: a 3.5-star review of Patty Griffin's American Kid album that only mentions boyfriend Robert Plant three times and calls her songwriting "masterful"; a definitive feature on the post-Dixie Chicks life of Natalie Maines; a top-ranked recommendation for Gary Clark Jr.'s iTunes session; a feature on Austin native Ethan Hawke for Before Midnight and a glowing full-page review of local director Richard Linklater's film; and a full-page advertisement with James Petralli for a sweepstakes to fly to NYC and watch White Denim play at the Bowery Ballroom in September.

› Transforming the awesomely crappy rock dive Trophy's into a funky food joint called C-Boys has taken longer than expected, as Continental Club owner Steve Wertheimer's renovation efforts were caught up in acquiring building permits. Finally, the South Congress spot shows signs of progress with the old bar deconstructed down to a shell. Despite the renovation's magnitude, the weathered old banner reading "Best Burgers in Austin" still hangs. It must be pretty old because I don't even recall them having burgers.

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