When I first received this book to review, I was worried that I may not be able to fully appreciate the nostalgic stories since I’m not (currently) the biggest hardcore punk fan. On the back cover Barile is described as an “instigator on the 1980s hardcore punk scene.” Minor Threat, Black Flag, and SSD are classics, sure, but I hoped I could still muster some interest after being somewhat burnt out on hearing about them for the past twenty years. But from the moment I opened it, I couldn’t put it down. It also happens to be the perfect book for being in the middle of a pandemic since we are so starved for live music. It totally transported me to shows many of us have wished we could go back in time to witness. (Bad Brains in 1982? Yes, please.) This book is a front row, music maniac, natural-born rebel’s memoir that highlights her participation and help in the very orchestration of the East Coast punk scene.
The book takes place during a time before cell phones and social media, making it an invaluable piece of punk rock history; which seems to usually be pieced together from various anecdotes of what happened from sometimes unreliable (or simply unaware) sources. Barile’s account, on the other hand, seems very reliable because she was not only sober (Barile soon became straight edge/sober after meeting her future husband), but she’s also a highly educated, award-winning, and a very obviously passionate teacher. The stories she shares are a well-balanced combination of dramatic (sometimes riotous/violent) events that happened at DIY punk shows and the life of a genuine, good-natured, independent woman going out on her own for the first time in Philadelphia.
Her emotional and visceral connection to music and her deep sentimentality towards the DIY punk shows she books, interwoven with the intensity (and injuries) in the mosh pit, paint such a real and relatable picture of the punk rock community that we still see today. Barile and her friends were writing and singing angry songs about Reagan, going to protest KKK marches, and making their own shows happen just to be together and enjoy music.
Ian MacKaye, in his intro, mentions how many people only remember the crazy, violent parts of punk history, but the way he sees it is that “what they’re really trying to communicate is that it was a time so important to us that we put up with the madness.” This exact sentiment was truly evoked throughout the book because although I was surprised by the violent events, they were not the most memorable parts of the book for me. Her book is so much more than her life story; and so much more than a handful of infamous punk shows that ended in chaos. It’s really about community, artistic expression, and a love of music—music that just happens to be the kind that starts riots and gets the cops called. –Rosie Gonce (Bazillionpoints.com)