John Lefler performs with Acacia Collective and Midnight Sun on Saturday, July 3, at the Red Devil Lounge. 9 p.m., $8;www.reddevillounge.com.
A quick scan of John Lefler's song titles reveals a serious sideman complex: "Hard Act to Follow," "Better Than You," "Afraid Anymore." But being the hired ax for uh-oh, Dashboard Confessional, is not as dire as it may seem: Dan Hoerner from Sunny Day Real Estate once took a turn, and Lefler put in a session with Old 97s' melodic genius, Rhett Miller. So Lefler's solo Better by Design may be power-pop boilerplate, but it's better than average boilerplate: think the Format clashing with Mercury Rev at its most Disneylike. The arrangement of "Hard Act to Follow" suggests a Dr. Dog pimped out by Jon Brion, and "Better Than You" tumbles like the Turtles' "Happy Together." If that's unexpected from an emo second-stringer, then, well, another title is "Up My Sleeve."