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Old 97's guitarist has a new solo project in The Scrap Hotel

Old 97's guitarist Ken Bethea is up and running with his new solo project, The Scrap Hotel. (Apparently, it's a metaphor for your brain. We still prefer to call ours The Jack Daniel's Museum of Bad Ideas and Cloudy Memories. Same idea, we guess.) Haven't heard a note yet, but we do hear it sounds a bit like Jonathan Richman, and that can't be a bad thing. Besides Bethea, residents at The Scrap Hotel include drummer and fellow 97 Philip Peeples, multi-instrumentalist Jim Lehnert (on pedal steel, various keyboards, sax and whatever else he can fit onstage) and stand-up bassist Jay...something. May have started with a B, but it was loud, it was post-shot at the bar, it is now forgotten. Sorry. Whatever. "We're at the still-practicing stage," Bethea says. "That's what the Barley House stuff is. Three of us have kids. It's not like when you're young and irresponsible and can practice all the time." The full band--Bethea and Jay the bassist played as a duo a few weeks ago--will make its debut March 3 at Barley House, opening for Pleasant Grove. Should be a good time, but what do we know? That's right. Not much. And no, Bethea says, this doesn't mean the Old 97's are broken up. They'll probably play sometime later this year, when their schedules free up a bit. But they're officially not on Elektra Records anymore, although front man Rhett Miller (recording a solo record with Jon Brion as we speak) is. So simmer down...

Brave Combo, Jimi Tunnel Trio, Band Schmand, the Baptist Generals, Centro-matic's Will Johnsonand Scott Danbomand the duo of Polly Maynardand Gerald Jones will perform March 3 at the Fair Hall complex on the North Texas Fair Grounds in Denton (located behind the Kroger on University Drive). The shindig is a benefit for 38-year-old Mark Fearing, a Denton resident suffering from the effects of a bacterial meningitis infection; specifically, organizers are trying to raise enough money to outfit a new van for Fearing to accommodate his condition and make transportation easier for him. His condition? Fearing, a former college professor with a doctorate in business management, lost both arms and legs to the illness almost 10 years ago, along with much of his hearing and some of his mental faculties. Since contracting the rare and deadly infection in 1995 during a teaching stint in New Zealand, Fearing has overcome more than anyone should reasonably be asked to (painful rehabilitation, no medical insurance, a month-long coma); if you pitch in, you can help him beat even more. Music starts at 1 p.m. Get there early, stay late...

They're our "favorite Dallas band"--that's what the sticker says, anyway: southFM, the group that captured our hearts (heh) with its appearance on the fourth installment of the Buzz-Oven compilation series, will release its forthcoming full-length on Brando Records, the label that released Slow Roosevelt's Weightless late last year. The man who produced that album, Alex Gerst, will be manning the controls for southFM's disc, as well, when recording starts in March. We're sure it will be, um great, and we will be forced to eat our words, or failing that, eat some physical representation of our words, like, liver and onions or something like that. Or, more likely, we'll say something about said disc that will result in--oh, we don't know--a satirical T-shirt or some such this time around. Could go either way. In the meantime, the group will continue introducing new bassist Doug McGrath (whom you may have seen playing with Disconnected in '73 or working at Curtain Club and Liquid Lounge--or perhaps not) to the fold. They have shows coming up at the end of March; tell 'em Clyde Fant sent you. Who? Exactly. We had another joke here, but the computer crashed (no, really) and we can't remember it, so we've apparently let ourselves partially off the hook. For now...

The Polyphonic Spree has landed a plum gig at the upcoming South by Southwest Music Festival scheduled to happen March 13 to 17 in lovely Austin, Texas. (Lovely? Sure. The Live Music Capital of the World? Not bloody likely.) The Spree will perform directly before former Band leader (and recent Gap pitchman) Robbie Robertson delivers the conference's keynote address on Thursday morning. Which means the group likely will have one of the better-attended showcases at the festival, virtually guaranteed to attract a ton of label reps and journalists. So that's good. Downside: The band plays at 10 a.m., when even the most devout music fan isn't ready for rock or anything approaching it. Not so good. In other SXSW news, Bowling for Soup, Clutch Cargo, Eleven Hundred Springs, Flipside, Kid Icarusand Pleasant Grove have been added to an already strong local roster of bands headed down Interstate 35 for the par-tay. And probably a few more to be announced. Oh, and the jug band we've been kicking around for the last few years, Macho Business Donkey Wrestler, snagged an invite. We'll be playing the only song we know, the improbably titled (and 45 minutes long) "I Got So Many Lawyers Lined Up to See Me Today, You'd Think I Had Tobacco Leaking Out of My Breast Implants." Guaranteed fun. Or not...

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