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Interview by James Damion

In her book Iím Not Holding Your Coat: My Bruised-And-All Memoir of Punk Rock Rebellion, author and award-winning teacher Nancy Barile takes us on a journey through her love of and involvement in rock, punk and hardcore. Her detailed stories of early experiences going to concerts, booking and promoting shows, managing bands, and making her way through dangerous neighborhoods in order to secure a spot as close to the stage as possible will relate to anyone and everyone who loved or is in love with live music.

Q: What made you decide to write a book about your personal journey with music?

Nancy Barile: There were a couple of reasons. First, someone asked me to write an article about how punk rock influenced my teaching. When I thought about it, punk rock informed nearly every aspect of my teaching career, and it had a profound impact on the teacher I am today. I realized how important that time was to me. The second reason was because I joined several punk and hardcore pages on Facebook, and on the anniversaries of shows or other events, Iíd post stories about the shows we did and the experiences we had. Inevitably, some dude born in 1988 would attempt to correct, refute, or contradict what I said. The mansplaining was unbelievable. So I figured Iíd write the book and set the record straight once and for all.

Q: Were there any roadblocks that made it particularly hard along the way?

I initially worked with some people who lacked integrity, but cutting ties with them was the best thing to happen to me because Bazillion Points picked up the book. Working with professionals was such an incredible experience, and Iíll be forever thankful for the series of events that brought me to work with Ian Christe. And then, of course, the pandemic caused some supply chain issues with the production of the book, delaying shipping about a month, but in the end, everything worked out perfectly. Iím very grateful and lucky!

Q: I felt the book went a lot deeper than the title suggests. Can you explain the story you set out to tell and how you feel about the end results?

I wanted to tell a few different stories in my book. I wanted to talk about what it feels like to be a kid in love with music. I wanted to talk about going to Catholic school and having a father who was a Marine, and trying to find myself. Most importantly I wanted to write about the power of live music, punk rock, and hardcore. It was important for me to give a womanís perspective on the scene. My book is also a love letter to Philadelphia and to the people that I knew there during those fun times. The results of my book have actually been kinda mind-blowing. When I wrote it, I figured a few friends, relatives, and diehard punks would read it. I never dreamed the first printing would sell out in pre-orders. I never dreamed it would be in so many countries and that it would be translated into another language. Itís really been fun, and exciting, and everyone has been really awesome to me.

Q: Growing up, you listened to and attended concerts from varied aspects of rock in general. Can you pinpoint just what it was about punk and eventually hardcore that appealed to you and made it, more or less, your focus?

I liked the anger, rebellion, excitement, non-conformity, physicality, and danger of punk rock. I canít tell you why. Itís probably weird that as a suburban, Catholic school girl, I gravitated to it so much. But I did.

Q: Do any of the bands and artists from the 70ís and 80ís still appeal to you? Any particular artist that resonates with you all these years later?

Basically, I barely listen to any music made after 1999, haha. I listen to a lot of old David Bowie, Queen, early Rod Stewart, Led Zeppelin, Blondie, Elvis Costello, Joan Jett, Roxy Music, and Patti Smith. I listen to James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and the Ohio Players. I probably listen to Minor Threat, the Bad Brains, the Avengers, Stiff Little Fingers, SS Decontrol a few times a week. Al and I listen to Marky Ramonesí Punk station on the car radio. I also like a lot of the Ď90s bands like Soundgarden and Alice and Chains. Probably the ďnewestĒ band in regular rotation on my phone is Rage Against the Machine. I loved that band since the day I heard them and still do.

Q: All great stuff. Does the fact that you still listen to SSD have anything to do with your being married to the guitarist?

No, and I actually find that question a bit insulting and offensive, as if a woman couldnít like a band unless her husband was in it. I was a fan long before I was a girlfriend or wife.

Q: As someone whoís easily distracted, and has a very short span of attention. Iíd feel somewhat remiss if I didnít note how deeply I took in each page. That said, one of the many things that drew me to the book is how relatable the stories and your experiences are. I feel that anyone who had, or still has that passion for live music and art can relate. Were you aware of that possible connection with readers when you set out to tell your story?

Absolutely. That was a goal I had writing the book. I wanted people to be able to relate to something, whether it was Catholic school, being a misfit, but especially I wanted people to connect to the experience of live music. Reminiscing about those times seems to be a universal experience. Quite a few people have told me that even though they werenít into punk rock, they could relate to the live music experience, and that made me very happy!

Q: Looking back, how do you relate to the surreal nature of meeting and even hanging out with people who are now, and even then, considered icons or even Gods. Of all of your encounters listed in the book. I can assure you that your random run in with The Clash completely blew my mind. In retrospect, I might have traded my ticket for that encounter.

Running into the Clash was most definitely an AMAZING and surreal experience. I still canít believe it happened. But Joe Strummer was the only member who wasnít there, and he was my GOD. Had he been there, I probably would have passed out or something. Meeting Andy Warhol was another cool experience. But as far as the punk and hardcore people I met back then, they were just regular folks, and no one really acted like an ďiconĒ or ďgod.Ē I still count some of the folks as my friends today.

Q: You spent much of your formative years hanging out, going to see bands, and living in Philly, having grown up within the five boroughs of New York City. Though different in many ways, I always seem to find myself defending the character or personality of New York. Itís hard to imagine any city other than Philly that gets the ďAngry AssholesĒ rap so strongly. By all means, your time there reads as very positive. Do you feel the reputation is earned or not? What do you feel is the biggest misconception about Philadelphia?

Philadelphia is, without a doubt, a 'f*ck around and find out' city. Trump f*cked around and found out. The white supremacists who came to Philly back in July f*ucked around and found out. Philadelphians take their city and their sports teams seriously ó thatís also a reputation that is earned and true. When my nephew and his wife were having a baby, I sent him a Goodnight, Boston childrenís book. My nephew and his wife frequently visited Boston, and we always had a great time, so I thought it would be a cool gift. Most of the pages in the book held historic and geographic references. But three pages mentioned Boston sports teams. My nephew, whom I previously had an incredible relationship with, sent me the most venomous and vitriolic texts I have ever received in my life about it. Our relationship will probably never be the same, haha. But thatís Philly. Another great thing about Philly is that Philadelphians do not care what you think about them. Zero. Nada. I saw a great tweet about Philly. It said ďThe great thing about Philadelphia is you literally canít insult them. They take any attempt at insult as either a compliment or an offer to fight, which is also a compliment in Philly.Ē That sums it up perfectly. As far as misconceptions, I once heard someone say ďPhilly wants to be New York.Ē I can assure you, no one in Philly wants to be New York.

Q: Being that you loved your life in Philly, what was it like moving to Boston? What were some of the differences you first noticed? Was there something that took you longer or was harder to adjust to?

Boston was very different than Philadelphia. When I moved here in 1982, there was a lack of diversity, and I really missed that. The city is also MUCH safer than Philadelphia. Itís way more expensive (but jobs did pay more.) The city has a completely weird layout that was so tough to get used to after having a grid like Philadelphia. People are MUCH colder and austere. It always freaks me out when I return to Philly and get in an elevator and Philly people are like ďHI! How you doing?Ē The hardcore shows were in the afternoon, and that was REALLY hard to adjust to. All that being said, I absolutely love Boston. The people were so welcoming. The city has an academic and intellectual vibe that is really cool, too. I always feel like Iím constantly want to learn more here.

Q: Coming from New York and spending much of my teens going to shows at CBGBís and the Lower East Side, I grew an unrealistic shield of toughness, something I immediately shed the first time I attended my first show at City Gardens. In going to hardcore shows, you were often travelling out of your geographical comfort zone. Were you aware of the dangers that might have been waiting?

I realize now that after living in Center City Philly, I grew jaded. Everywhere was dangerous, and many nights ended with an incident of some sort. I was cautious and street-smart, and I could run pretty fast, and that saved me on more than one occasion. When I wrote the book and started chronicling each incident, I had more than one WTF moment. Like 'Wow, all this is so crazy, no one will believe it!'' But that time helped me to become pretty fearless and thatís helped me in just about every facet of my life.

Q: In Ď88-í89, some like-minded friends and I got a hold of a VHS tape called 'Minor Threat at Buff Hall.'' Though the performance is epic, it doesnít even come close to telling the story around the show. Truth be told, I had no idea the show was in Camden. Your passage in the book goes a lot deeper and perhaps darker into the story. At the time, were you fearful that this might be your last day amongst the living? Or were you just living in the moment? (Side note: While watching the recording, Buff Hall could have been in the heart of DC. We had no idea.)

I was most definitely a little worried. Maybe not as much as when I was in Kensington, but I was on high alert. Once the Ghetto Riders took over, I relaxed a bit. Those guys were very good to us. Iím also the kind of person that when bad or crazy things are happening, I think 'Well, this will be a good story, and I canít wait to tell my brother, my best friend, or whomever.''

Q: For those who havenít read the book (and I highly recommend everybody read the book) can you describe the Ghetto Riders in detail and how they contributed to the event?

The Ghetto Riders were an offshoot of a larger motorcycle club, the Wheels of Soul. The members I met were all Black, and much the way most motorcycle club members are, they were very physically imposing. After chatting, I realized they were absolute sweethearts. Maybe one day Iíll go back and reconnect with them. On the day of the show, kids were getting jumped, beat up, and robbed on the way to Buff Hall. The Ghetto Ridersí clubhouse was located right next to Buff Hall, and early in the night, they demanded entry from Allison who was working the door. She obliged. She explained what we were doing with our show and what was happening. The Ghetto Riders put the word out on the street that Buff Hall was a 'Ridersí Party' that night, and all attacks ceased. So basically, they saved us. Iím not sure what would have happened had they not intervened.

Q: Iíve watched the 'Bad Brains Live at CBGBís 1982' DVD numerous time and have even met people who can point to themselves in the crowd. However, there is a female attendee in red checkered shirt just behind Dr. Know rocking out and singing along to every note. I always wondered what happened to her. Is that you?

Her name is Polly, and sheís from New York. Sheís awesome, and sheís still around!

Q: Has your time involved with punk and hardcore had any influence on your approach as a teacher or how you relate to people in general?

Punk rock has informed nearly every facet of my teaching. Itís helped me connect to marginalized and alienated teenagers. Itís the reason I create assignments which require my students to check and evaluate sources, explore different perspectives, and become independent learners. The DIY work ethic is constantly in play because I teach at a school that does not have a lot of money or resources. And, of course, I still question authority, and I encourage my students to do the same. When I read about governments around the United States banning powerful and important books, or attempting to silence history because it makes them uncomfortable, it makes me fight even harder to ensure that the truth is taught.

Q: As someone who attended Catholic School, I was wondering how much of a motivation it was in your rebelling against the system? (Iím not sure if Iím using the right wording.)

Iím sure Catholic school was a MAJOR reason I rebelled. Despite a few years of truly inspirational learning in my K-12 education, for the most part it was dreadful. Conformity was the norm, and the social hierarchies were silly and not anything I wanted to be a part of. The people in charge were ill-equipped and power-hungry. I always wonder what would have happened had my learning experience been different.

Q: Did that experience (going to Catholic school) have any influence in becoming a teacher and choosing to teach in public school (more or less righting a wrong?) It was absolutely the catalyst for me being a teacher. As I sat in the back of the room, Iíd form lesson plans in my head, thinking: 'If I taught this lesson, this is what I would do.' If my high school teachers were the role models for teaching, I figured Iíd be the anti-teacher.

Q: Was there any push back from the faculty or your students when they found out about your past?

I was scared of that for my first few years, but I teach in Massachusetts, which is a liberal, democratic state, where people are more intelligent, open-minded, and accepting. If you do your job well, theyíre happy.

You can find Nancy Barile on Facebook and order I'm Not Holding Your Coat here...


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