Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa rhymes about maybe five things total: your girlfriend, smoking weed, smoking weed with your girlfriend, getting drunk and getting money, in no particular order of importance. His latest release, a mixtape called Kush and Orange Juice (no false advertising here), is a laid-back set of summery, radio-friendly jams for the kids to get drunk and hook up to. Even if you know nothing else about him, all it takes is 30 seconds of listening to this guy to know he could teach graduate courses in hip hop entrepreneurship. Khalifa burst onto the hip hop scene in 2006 with Show and Prove, a debut so commercially viable Warner Bros. snapped up the cocky young MC just a year later. After that, though, the label kept delaying the release of Khalifa’s sophomore album. So in 2009, the MC decided to part ways with Warner and regain control of his own career. It was a wise move: There’s no reason for an MC with a Billboard hit under his belt to let his albums languish in the major label release queue. In the business of hip hop, Internet buzz is a more powerful force than any major label marketing machine, and Khalifa knows it. There’s no question that he’s making it all the way to the top — it’s just a question of when and how. Wiz Khalifa, Fashawn, Jasmine Solano, NO I.D. & Yung If, DJ Crown perform at 8 pm Thursday, May 13, at WOW Hall. $15 adv., $18 door. Sara Brickner
Setting a New Bar
Just this week, As I Lay Dying released their long-awaited new album The Powerless Rise, their first in more than three years. Vocalist Tim Lambesis has a jokey thrash metal side project, Austrian Death Machine, that mocks Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it sounds like some of Austrian Death Machine’s “total brutal” approach is rubbing off on Lambesis’ primary band.
As I Lay Dying are one of the “big three” in metalcore — along with Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage — and they’ve forged a formula of clean vocals mixed with screaming parts, shreddy guitar solos, chuggy breakdowns and syrupy sing-songy choruses that band after band now wants to copy. It may seem like a rigid structure, and in many ways it is, but on The Powerless Rise, their fifth album, they’ve reached a pinnacle of lean, mean and heavy. Guitars parts are heavier. Relentless double bass beats permeate each song. Some breakdowns, such as the one in “Anodyne Sea,” are thrashy and doomy beyond any of their past efforts. Lambesis also seems to have grown into more range as a vocalist. At times his vocals are lower, more growly and higher-pitched than what he’s accomplished in the past.
After honing their craft and defining a genre for more than 10 years, it seems that AILD has matured enough to pull a little farther away from their metalcore roots. I don’t expect them to give up the formula entirely, but it’s nice to hear them setting the bar a little higher for the other bands that will inevitably follow. As I Lay Dying, Demon Hunter, Blessthefall and War of Ages play at 7 pm Tuesday, May 18, at McDonald Theatre. $18 adv., $22 door. — Vanessa Salvia
Bringing the Party Back
Like many of Portland’s best bands, The Quick and Easy Boys have roots in Eugene. After making their name as a good-time funk rock party band here, they made their way north to the big city and have continued their ascension, drawing crowds of more than 200 people to their shows in the Rose City. Now The Quick and Easy Boys are releasing their sophomore album, Red Light Rabbit, nationwide on Nashville-based PerCapita Records, and they’re stopping by Eugene to celebrate.
The Quick and Easy Boys have a sound that is truly eclectic, with funk, rock, disco, honky-tonk and punk mixing in equal portions. The band aptly describes themselves as a hybrid of the Minutemen, Funkadelic and Willie Nelson. On “Take Your Medicine,” the first single from Red Light Rabbit, The Quick and Easy Boys start with a Bee Gees-esque ”four-on-the-floor” disco shuffle, add some Red Hot Chili Peppers style garage-funk and finish it with hooky blue-eyed soul vocals. What ties it all together is a sense of fun and energy that comes through in the recording and is a big part of the band’s growing reputation as a live act.
Like all great live bands, The Quick and Easy Boys leave it all on stage, creating a party atmosphere wherever they play. Any live show that includes formidable moustaches, ten-gallon hats and a red cape makes for a good night out. The Quick and Easy Boys and Reeble Jar play at 9:30 pm Saturday, May 15, at John Henry’s. 21+. $5. — William Kennedy
The Roots of Reggae
It’s easy to assume that everyone knows about Toots and the Maytals, particularly in a weed-smoking, reggae-loving burg like this one. But even though they’re one of the most prolific, hard-working and seminal reggae acts in the history of the genre — second only to Bob Marley and maaaybe Peter Tosh — it never ceases to amaze me how many people have heard the Clash’s cover of “Pressure Drop” or Sublime’s cover of “54-36 (Was My Number)” but meet me with a blank stare when I mention the band that actually wrote those songs. Reggae fans will already know all this stuff, but in case you need a primer, here are a few things you must know about this band. One: Toots and the Maytals’ career was rudely interrupted by a possession charge that sent frontman Toots Hibbert to jail and later inspired Hibbert to write “54-46 (Was My Number)” about his time in lockdown. Two: Toots and the Maytals’ cover of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” outshines the original more than any cover in history. Finally — and this is all that really matters — Toots and the Maytals put on one of the most joyful, entertaining, leave-you-with-the-warm-fuzzies shows you’re likely to experience in your lifetime, and not just because you’ve been inhaling weed smoke all night (whether you want to or not). Catch these reggae icons while they’re still around — as critic Robert Christgau once said, Hibbert is the closest thing to Otis Redding left on the planet. And they’re still releasing new music: The band’s latest, Flip and Twist, just dropped on April 20. But of course. Toots and the Maytals play with Rey Fresco at 8 pm Wednesday, May 19, at the McDonald Theatre. $21 adv., $26 door. — Sara Brickner
Breathing Fire and Pageantry
Portland-based rock group The Slants only started playing shows in mid-2007, but they’ve already caused a bit of a stir. They’re reportedly the only Asian band so far that’s been featured by Fender Music, and they were once banned from a venue when their frontman breathed fire. Their latest album, Pageantry, combines glam rock, alternative and punk into one sleek procession of candy for your ears.
Vocalist Aron Moxley’s tone, which reminds me a bit of The Killers, adds its own style to The Slants’ sound, with just the right amount of attitude and not too much whine. Johnny Fontanilla’s guitar nicely compliments Tyler Chen’s drumming, which is energetic but also a little behind the beat, avoiding an overly hyper sound. And warbly keyboards, especially in songs like the title track and “Running With The Dead,” lend a poppy edge that helps the band live up to its reputation as “Chinatown Dance-Rock.”
The Slants say their name has offended plenty of people. Though not overtly political, the bandmembers take pride in their varied backgrounds and poke fun at themselves and stereotypes, writing on their website, “We’re proud of who we are and aren’t afraid to say that, ‘yes, we do have slanted eyes.’”
The Slants play at 9 pm Saturday, May 15, at the Muse Lounge. 21+. Free. — Darcy Wallace
Snap, Crackle and (Progressive) Pop
Kaki King burst into the music scene in 2003 with her exquisite fretwork and primarily instrumental pieces. “Playing With Pink Noise” (from 2004’s Legs to Make Us Longer) thrust her more in the indie rock spotlight, showcasing a guitar that she played as if it were trying to run away from her. The video for “Pink Noise” was simply a white backdrop with King effortlessly plucking and slapping away among randomly timed pink rose petals and balloons. It helped land her hands on the silver screen — as the up-close guitar “stunt double” for Freddie Highmore, who played a guitar prodigy in 2007’s August Rush. Later that year, King was nominated for a Golden Globe for her score for Sean Penn’s Into the Wild (alongside Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder).
With her fifth album, Junior, a more mature songwriter has emerged. She still brings the famous fretwork to her songs, but Junior brings vocals more to the fore. King woos us with the subtle and intricate pop of “Spit It Back In My Mouth,” the drive of “Falling Day,” the indie pop feel of “Communist Friends” and the hard rock of “Death Head.” The vulnerable and heartfelt “Sunnyside” brings the album to a close and shows off King’s more personal side. Kaki King is for fans of the indie rock of Sleater-Kinney and Tegan & Sara, or for those who like a bit more virtuoso musicianship mixed in with their lush pop melodies.
Kaki King plays at 2 pm Sunday, May 16, at CD World (free in-store) and with An Horse at 8 pm Sunday, May 16, at WOW Hall. $15. — Dan Temmesfeld