Ritual Device original line-up reunites for Lincoln Calling, Reverb shows…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 9:54 am April 29, 2024
Ritual Device circa 1994. Photo by Mike Malone.

By Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

One of the biggest surprises of this coming weekend’s Lincoln Calling Festival line-up is that legendary Nebraska punk band Ritual Device is reuniting for a one-off concert featuring the band’s original line-up. 

A four-piece consisting of guitarist Mike Saklar, drummer Eric Ebers, bass player Jerry Hug and frontman/madman Tim Moss, Ritual Device was one of the key bands during Nebraska’s first golden age of indie music. Along with acts like Mousetrap, Frontier Trust, Simon Joyner and Lincoln’s Mercy Rule, Ritual Device recorded and released music and toured throughout the country at a time when very few Nebraska bands did. 

For those who missed it, here’s my original description of this band, written 30 or so years ago: Ritual Device is a tortured, monolithic punk rock band whose sound had been aptly described as “gutter groove.” They make perfect background music for your typical serial killing or high-speed chase through a bombed-out Beirut neighborhood. The closest comparison? Maybe the Jesus Lizard meets Ministry with a little Nine Inch Nails thrown in (without the synths, of course). It is violent music, scary.

On stage, Ritual Device also was violent – shows were riots of noise and panic, with Moss egging on the crowd with a microphone chord wrapped around his wrist and elbow, his long hippy hair sweat-matted to his face, throwing raw pig ears into the thrashing mob. Through that haze of mayhem, the band’s bass/drum/guitar groove piston-pumped like an overheated Mopar engine – angry, infectious, and, yes, groovy.

Ritual Device at The Waiting Room, Dec. 26, 2014.

And now you, too, can experience Ritual Device in all its glory, not only Saturday night at Duffy’s as part of Lincoln Calling, but at two nights of shows – Thursday and Friday – at Reverb Lounge. When the band last reunited almost 10 years ago at a crowded Waiting Room Lounge, Moss had said it would be their last waltz. But when Lincoln Calling organizers reached out, he and the band couldn’t say no.

“I didn’t think we’d play again, either,” Moss said Sunday night after the band’s first rehearsal for this spate of shows. “I had to sit on it a few days before I talked to the other guys. It seemed like, ‘Why not?’ We were all in a good spot to do it.”

Moss, who lives in San Francisco, is the artist manager for bands Faith No More and Sleep and the road manager for Mastodon, who currently isn’t touring. The remaining members are active in other local projects. Mike Saklar fronts The Sun-Less Trio and Jerry Hug plays bass in Bad, Bad Men (who will be playing right before Ritual Device Saturday night at Lincoln Calling and Friday night at Reverb). Last year Ebers played drums with the Cotton brother’s band, Violenteer.

So how was that first practice? “It was a little rough,” Moss said, but quickly added that they’ll be ready by this weekend. The set list no doubt will include songs from Henge, the band’s 1993 debut on Redemption Records. Produced by the band and recorded and produced by The Jesus Lizard’s David Wm. Sims, it’s something of a lost treasure of punk rock, having never been rereleased and unavailable on streaming services Spotify and Apple Music… but not for long.

Ritual Device, Henge (1993, Redemption)

The band will reintroduce Henge to the world with a remastered digital-only version. The plan was to have the new version available before these shows but “it’s taking a little longer for us to be happy with it,” Moss said. Working on the project is Chicago’s Carl Saff, whose credits include mastering albums by Sleep, Mudhoney, Bardo Pond, Sonic Youth and more. In addition to the full album, the release will include tracks from the band’s “Pork Fist” single. 

In a post on social media, Moss summed up his feelings about Ritual Device and the role it’s played in his life: “After the band broke up, my path now clear to me, I moved to California and never looked back traveling further into this life of Music, but it was this band, this little noise-rock punk combo, that introduced the World to me, and I will always be grateful for that and to my three band mates who shared it with me.”

The schedule for this week’s Ritual Device reunion shows are as follows. Choose wisely:

  • — Thursday, May 3 at Reverb Lounge, Ritual Device with Pagan Athletes and Nowhere. 8 p.m., $20.
  • — Friday, May 4 at Reverb Lounge, Ritual Device with Bad, Bad Men and Gerald Lee Jr. 8 p.m., $20. 
  • — Saturday, May 5, at the Lincoln Calling Music Festival – Duffy’s Tavern, 11 p.m. Full weekend passes are $60; one-day passes are $40 and available from Lincolncalling.com

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2024 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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