ASUC SUPERB announces Built to Spill as headlining act for Cal Day

Julie Liu/Staff

ASUC SUPERB has announced ‘90s indie-rock titans Built to Spill as the special headlining act for this year’s Cal Day.

Following SUPERB-hosted performances by transcendent producer-musician Thundercat and sunny jangle-pop outfit Real Estate in past Cal Days, Built to Spill — whose set will take place April 16 at 4 p.m. at the Doe Steps by Memorial Glade — will soundtrack the UC Berkeley class of 2020’s inaugural arrival onto the campus.

Members of the Idaho-based indie rock band are forefathers of the genre — Built to Spill’s sprawling, melancholic sound is frequently cited as an influence for beloved Pacific Northwest indie-rock acts such as Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse. And the honor comes with good reason: With hearty, intricate guitar solos and wry, frank lyrics flowing out of visionary frontman Doug Martsch, the band has earned consistent acclaim over the span of eight albums in its illustrious 24-year career.

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Where Built to Spill succeeds most is in its capacity to straddle the line between this mastery of traditional rock elements — catchy, tightly crafted hooks and precise rhythm sections — and the deliberate sincerity of Martsch’s lyricism and vocals. Neither element overpowers the other, and the outcome is stunning, old-school indie rock.

Perhaps this display is most masterfully executed on 2015’s Untethered Moon, Built to Spill’s eighth album and its first in more than half a decade. Even with a discography spanning three decades, the record feels delightfully familiar, as if it were merely plucked from the band’s Idaho roots two decades ago. It’s blissfully unaware of any musical shifts that have taken place since the band’s formation, ultimately stuck in the past in the best way.

But Built to Spill’s live sets are positively electric, translating its well-crafted rock tunes into explosive, guitar-led opuses. Its set will be a welcome return-to-form for alt-rock fans itching for a foregone era of gruff headbangers and ragged flannel. Instrumental twists and turns abound in Built to Spill’s concerts, as Martsch’s technically sound riffing translates to captivating, minutes-long solos that don’t resemble the tired showboating of other rock deities.

The set will be an endurance test for Martsch and the rest of the band, which includes newly-recruited drummer Steve Gere and bassist Jason Albertini. And it’ll be thrilling as hell for audiences to witness — a grand marathon of rock star talent with none of the bullshit or bravado.

Built to Spill will be playing at Doe Steps on April 16. The show starts at 4 p.m. The show is open to the public.

Joshua Bote is the assistant arts & entertainment editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Tweet him at @joshuaboat.