Potrero punk power

Pub date January 27, 2010

When I meet with the triad that makes up Dadfag at Four Barrel Coffee, Eva Hannan explains that they are operating on no sleep. She and fellow guitarist-vocalist Danielle Benson had woken up at dawn to drive their Sacramento friends from Ganglians home after they’d stayed in the city to see Dadfag play the previous night at El Rio. The exhaustion doesn’t show. Instead, Dadfag have the same delirious energy one witnesses when they perform, except that Benson has blown out her voice.

What DadFag does musically is simple. Their potent punk power chords simultaneously assault and envelope. The rabid hardcore recantations (“Tits”) and sludge-y post-punk numbers (“Water”) on the band’s debut album Scenic Abuse (Broken Rekids) reflect a natural tendency to prefer extremes — love/hate, strong/soft, superfast/slow — over anything banal or middle-of-the-road. Witness drummer Alan Miknis’ description of the band: “We’re really sweet and also the biggest assholes at the same time.”

In concert, Dadfag’s fervid spirit compels curiosity. The band is aware of this. “I think having enthusiasm, like true enthusiasm about things, and life, and music, and your friends –” Benson says.

“And not just doing it to get laid,” Hannan interjects.

“Yeah, well that’s a perk,” Benson quips, before concluding, “People are attracted to that. They want to be around people who are excited about things for real.”

It’s hard to decide if the members of Dadfag are disrupting one another or finishing each other’s sentences. It seems that it might work both ways. Hannan explains how Benson “lost her shit” and moved out to the Bay, and Benson explains how Hannan “lost her shit” and followed suit.

“She came and slept on my air mattress with me for a little,” Benson says, going on to observe that air mattresses are more comfortable with two people. “Yeah, it evens it out,” agrees Hannan. “But you both roll to the middle, so it’s always funny.”

The members of Dadfag knew each other back in Athens, Ga., where Hannan grew up, Benson went to graduate school, and Miknis drove up from Americus, an even more secluded Southern town, to see shows. But their friendship didn’t truly commence until they all landed in the Bay Area. “We had the same circle of friends, but we never talked,” Miknis explains. Through another Athens transplant, the now-defunct fuzz-rock band Long Legged Woman, the three eventually found each other.

Dadfag didn’t just find each other, they also found themselves here. “Living in San Francisco is so great, everyone should move here,” says Hannan. Their explanation of why they despised Georgia is a bit fragmented, but with no shortage of reasons: “It’s a drag.” “There’s nothing going on.” “Everyone is drunk all the time.” “I got called a fag a lot more.”

The three found (or rediscovered) music after arriving in San Francisco. Hoping to start a band, Benson and Hannan began sharing the song scraps they’d written. Justin Flowers of Long Legged Woman suggested Miknis join Dadfag, and the three subsequently started squatting in Long Legged Woman’s practice space in Potrero Hill. “Sometimes with music, people will really match up well,” Hannan says. “And it just so happens that our first real experience playing music with one other person or trying to write with one other person worked that way.”

A year-and-a-half and more than 200 shows later, they’ve come a long way from not being able to follow Miknis’ drumming and just trying to play as loud and fast as possible. “Until I played in this band, there were a lot of things I didn’t feel empowered about, especially playing music loud in front of people,” says Benson. “It gives you the confidence to say or do or be anything you want to.”


With the Baths, Neighbors and Making Tents

Thurs/28, 9 p.m., $6

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923