When you talk about bastions of the Twin Cities punk scene, there are few people this side of Patrick Costello that can claim more Minnesota scene cred than Nate Gangelhoff. Coming up initially in the much loved turn of the century punk rocktet Rivethead (with Ryan and Zack of current TCSU franchise Off With Their Heads and Half-Pint from Dear Landlord), and currently bassing for Banner Pilot and The Gateway District, Gangelhoff also made two forays into the zine world with in that time, first with You Idiot and then more briefly with Whiskey Plus.
All of the early Ganglehoff writing was recently compiled in the appropriately titled You Idiot: The First Book. The consistency leaves something to be desired, but given the teen age of the author, the high points of You Idiot, like the Practice Space band reviews and He-Man message board invasion, are to be held in high praise. Crackpot religious purveyors and karaoke are not spared the lash, either. While satire always makes for an entertaining read, let us not forget that shit talking is a professional sideline for every band and the players therein. Formidable mic banterers like Paddy Costello and Bob Weston are the frosting on the beater at their respective live shows and have set the bar high, but judging by his written output, Gangelhoff is probably a pretty good time in the van.
Snarky in-jokes are a good time for the average punk fan, but recent years have fostered the interesting trend of punks writing full-on prose – novels even! The first I can remember was Dr. Frank (Portman) from MTX, who released his debut King Dork to some acclaim. Other scene folk like Jon Resh and Aimee Cooper have followed suit in more recent history, and paging through all of them I wrestle with the same issue: do I need to read books about shit I’ve already gone through? I guess if you are an aging (ex-) punk and want an avenue into basking into nostalgia, so be it. But as I grow older, this whole punk rock nostalgia fiction thing starts to look as circuitous as a dormroom Dali poster.
Hit The Ground Stumbling is our dear Mr. Gangelhoff throwing his hat into the ring with his own fictionalized account of his misbegotten youth and the friendship he shared in that time with a troubled teen he calls Rick Denton. Gangelhoff recounted tales of Rick in his zines previously, through a handful of stories that pretty safely establish the obfuscatory surname as an homage to Cyrus from the Mountain Goats tune “The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton.” It is safe to say that everybody has had a Rick Denton in their life at one time or another. Hell, many of you probably are Rick Denton to someone. In this metaphor, Gangelhoff plays Jeff, a rebellious but ultimately better off all-around guy who spends time in Rick’s orbit.
Whether you were personally a Goofus or a Gallant, there are a number of touchstones that will be familiar to anyone 30 or older in the punk scene. Dungeons and Dragons, shoplifting, smoking weed, and of course, the punk rock are all covered herein. As such, Hit The Ground Stumbling is a touching remembrance of misbegotten youth, equal parts light and dark, with a little bit of a He-Man-esque morality play to close out the proceedings. I’m not a fiction guy, and I think I still prefer Nate on bass rather than computer keyboard. However, I still found Hit The Ground Stumbling to be an entertaining read that will appeal to lovers of punk and prose.