By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
For such a self-deprecating city, Dallas still manages to surprise me from time to time.
Take, for instance, the story of John Lefler.
You may or may not know who he is. For those of you who don't, a primer: Lefler's biggest claim to fame is that he's the guitarist for Chris Carrabba's emo-rock poster child outfit, Dashboard Confessional.
Anyway, here's the really interesting thing about Lefler—something you probably don't know. See, Lefler's lived in Dallas for the past three years now. Doesn't have to. Has no ties to the immediate region. Could live anywhere in the country, really.
But he chose to live here. Why?
"I was trying to get out of California," he says over the phone from a Boston tour stop.
Of course, there's more to it than that. Like the fact that he actually enjoys it here, for one. And he likes the musicians he's met from the area, especially area singer-songwriter and producer Salim Nourallah, who has his hands in about a bajillion different musical pots.
"He's a big part of why I moved there," Lefler concedes.
The two met a few years back when Nourallah served as a backing musician for Rhett Miller and opened a slew of dates for Dashboard Confessional. The two hit it off during talks about music and what-have-you and, when Lefler was looking for a place to relocate to, he listened to Nourallah when he suggested Lefler move to Dallas. At the very least, Lefler figured, he'd be able to record his as-yet-unreleased solo works at Nourallah's Pleasantry Lane Studios. And he's been able to do just that since moving to town.
But, again, there's more to this story. Turns out, after Lefler and Nourallah became friends, the two realized that they'd kind of run into each other a few years before they formally met.
"[Dashboard was] opening for Weezer a few years back," Lefler recalls, "and we had a day off in Dallas. So we ended up going to the Gypsy Tea Room [now The Door] for an Old 97's show because we thought it looked like a cool thing to do. But we ended up hanging out in the other room for a bit [the area now known as the Prophet Bar] and started talking to some girls."
And, in true "rock star" fashion, Lefler and his bandmates started talking about their band and how they were only stopping through the city to perform.
"I got one of the girl's numbers, and I invited her to the show," Lefler says. "The next day, I called her number up and asked if she was home. The guy on the other line was like, 'No. This is her husband.'"
Burn! And, turns out, that call was answered by Nourallah, whose wife, area artist and photographer Jayme, was the girl Lefler was trying to pick up—something neither Nourallah nor Lefler picked up on until after Nourallah introduced Jayme, as his wife, to Lefler.
"I didn't recognize her at first," Lefler says, laughing. "But she was like, 'Hey, I know you!'"
Luckily for Lefler, Nourallah found the story amusing. Now, when Nourallah performs around town with his backing band and regular guitarist Chris Holt isn't available, Lefler serves as the stand-in.
And on Sunday night, when Dashboard Confessional stops in to perform at Grand Prairie's Nokia Theatre as part of the Rock Band 2 tour with Panic at the Disco, Plain White T's and The Cab, a Nourallah—or, more likely, two Nourallahs—will likely be on Lefler's guest list.
"This is actually only the second time we've played Dallas since I've moved there," Lefler says, "and because it's our second-to-last show, it will serve as a nice finish line, so to speak. I'll be able to take all my crap off the bus and be able to dump it off at home, which is nice."
And of that home in Dallas?
"Well, it feels like home now, that's for sure," Lefler says, content with his decision to move here.
So, OK, Dallas has its charms. And, yeah, there are some nice people in the music community.
It's still a frustrating place from time to time. Hell, it was just a month ago now that I railed against the seemingly positive overspill of talented touring acts Dallas was seeing as a result of being a natural warm-up tour stop for bands on the way down to perform at Austin City Limits, arguing that it was too much for the local concert-attending set to handle in too short a time.
Well, a simple look at our Critic's Picks page this week (page 59) shows that—uh-oh—it's the same old song and dance this weekend, this time thanks to Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest. Of the eight shows our staff recommends that page, seven (the lone exception being alt-country act Drag the River's show at Andy's Bar) are acts that are stopping through en route to or on the way home from Austin.
And we didn't even have the page space to recommend Friday night's House of Blues show from spacey indie rock duo Magnetic Morning (featuring Swervedriver front man Adam Franklin and Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino) or Sunday night's gig from brutal sludge/post-rock outfit Young Widows at The Prophet Bar.