I’m Not Holding Your Coat: My Bruises-And-All Memoir of Punk Rock Rebellion, By Nancy Barile, 190 pgs.

May 25, 2021

Above all else, Nancy Barile is an educator. Teaching is the framing device for I’m Not Holding Your Coat: her students poke around on the internet and find pictures of her all punked out Back In The Day. Having a punk background, she explains, is a benefit to the profession. Punk educators—who have often come from marginal/ostracized positions—are equipped to see and help kids on the fringes who might slip through the cracks in some classrooms.

Barile discovers her love of music early, and starts going to shows in nearby Philadelphia. She finds her way to punk through glam and glitter, moving from arena rock to David Bowie to glam to the first wave of CBGB bands. She graduates high school and moves to Harrisburg for college. One weekend, she heads into Philly for a Roxy Music show, and her plans abruptly change because the Three Mile Island reactor melts down. This was a stunning detail to me: even though I know when it happened, I’ve never heard of the disaster in the context of punk rock before. The COVID situation makes this unthinkable detail even more resonant.

Barile graduates, moves to Philly, and becomes the manager of the band Sadistic Exploits. She hasn’t ever managed a band before, but teaches herself the process, using her connections to get the band gigs. The Exploits play City Gardens in Trenton with a Dez-fronted iteration of Black Flag, who she sees again a few weeks later. S.O.A. opens, their last show before Henry Rollins moves to California, before a riot breaks out.

As Nancy continues going to shows, she becomes more involved with hardcore, seeing all the heavy-hitting bands of the time and eventually moving to Boston. My temptation here is to keep mentioning all the great bands she saw, all the shows she set up, but I don’t want to spoil things for you more than I already have by disclosing specifics. Much of the great joy of reading I’m Not Holding Your Coat is the way that Nancy Barile strings together stories you might have already heard, bits of punk apocrypha made real and urgent by first-hand experience, yielding unexpected connections through a context largely unexplored previously. Nancy’s prose is direct without being needlessly sparse, friendly without being cloying. If I’m Not Holding Your Coat is any indication—and how could it not be?—then she’s absolutely amazing in the classroom. As punks, we should feel proud to claim her as a member of our tribe.  –Michael T. Fournier (Bazillion Points)

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