John Iskander: The Grand Marshal

In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 30 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Mark Graham. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

John Iskander is probably in the best mood he's been in for months. He sits down for lunch at Uncle Uber's Sammich Shop in Deep Ellum and starts his summer vacation.

During the day, Iskander is a seventh-grade teacher, going on his sixth year with the Dallas Independent School District. At night, he's one of Dallas' top independent music promoters and taste-makers, with a keen ear for soon-to-be-discovered indie, punk and metal acts. In other words: The promotion company he owns, Parade Of Flesh, is putting on the shows now that you will care about in a year or two. At this point in his career, though, it's a hobby that has spiraled out of control.

"By April this year, I already surpassed last year's presales," Iskander says. "An entire year in four months." Even more impressive: "I've said 'no' to shows more this year than I've actually confirmed."

Parade of Flesh is having its best year, but Iskander fears he's outgrown his ability to do it all himself and continue teaching. Many of the bands he used to book have outgrown him too. Nashville's Jeff The Brotherhood have performed at several installments of Bro Fest, the annual Parade of Flesh music festival that happens on the Sunday following South By Southwest, and now they're headlining much bigger rooms when they come through town.

"I've brought [Real Estate] here four times, and every time I bring them has been bigger," he says. "So where am I gonna put them now?"

The truth is, a bigger promoter will step in and scoop up the band next time they come through town. But in a way, Iskander finds a sense of satisfaction when that happens. It might be his greatest talent. While other, bigger promoters have a larger budget to work with, few people in Dallas are as in tune with undergound music as Iskander.

Also, few people can do it while holding down a full-time job. Iskander says he's happy with the stability of life as a teacher. In fact, teaching is where he says he finds the most fulfillment. Doing both at the same time offers a comfortable balance for him, and while he feels overworked at times, he has no plans to give up one for the other.

"They're both fulfilling," he says. "It's not for money, but it's the gratification of seeing people satisfied in the end. It's a good feeling."

See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

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Daniel Hopkins
Contact: Daniel Hopkins