REVIEW: IshDARR at Summerfest

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Tuesday night was an important moment for Milwaukee music, and that’s undeniable. IshDARR took the stage at Summerfest as a headlining act, capping off a day filled with Midwest hip hop, including fellow Milwaukee native WebsterX. With surrounding stages occupied by a couple doses of lesser known EDM artists, as well as artists with familiar songs but not-as-familiar names, IshDARR stood out as the destination ground stage headliner of the night. Milwaukee obliged, filling the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard. Not only did IshDARR’s set on Tuesday night mark a milestone for Milwaukee hip hop, but it also served as a test of his actual drawing ability, especially on a holiday. Could IshDARR really pull in a crowd and maintain them?

The answer is, well, mostly yes. The night had been filled with DJ-backed hip hop acts for the most part, and and healthy hype sets from Kid Cut Up between acts kept many of the younger members of the crowd there. IshDARR’s timeslot even began with a 15 minute DJ set, complete with hypemen, kids waving CCM flags, and plenty of merch giveaways and selfies with fans. When the man of the hour came out, though, he gave them a little something different. Ish was backed by Foreign Goods, and while it made a special moment out of the night, a smattering of kids that were just there to drink smuggled-in liquor and hear bass drops hit the exits. That’s all well and fine, though. The real support for IshDARR still filled the entire bleacher and table area of the Big Backyard, with no elevated surface left empty. In comparison to many of the other ground stages, Ish still had one of the biggest attendances.

Once the actual set began, IshDARR delivered for his fans. The band remained tight (as always), and Ish’s set comprised of tracks from his most recent “Broken Hearts and Bankrolls” project, as well as several of the tracks that garnered his initial buzz in the city. Some of the biggest pops from the crowd came for singles “Mucho Mango”, “Dumb Playing”, and “Time Shawty”. There was also a considerable response for “Sanity”, a new single which just dropped (and you can hear below). There was also a small segment of the night dedicated solely to the rest of his CCM collective, as he left the stage in order for other members of the group, most notably Boodah Darr, to get their moment in the spotlight as well. A now veteran of the stage, Ish used that time to come back with a new outfit, and ready to rock the rest of his set.

And rock the set, they did. Foreign Goods were relentless as a backing band, laying down grooved versions of tracks from “Old Soul, Young Spirit” to help close out the night. Ish showed gratitude for the city that helped create his buzz multiple times, but none more than by playing his track “Too Bad” three times, instructing Foreign Goods to bring it back over and over. As the festival approached its closing hour for the night, IshDARR wasn’t ready to leave.

Regardless of if ten people or the thousands of people that did show up were there, IshDARR headlining Summerfest is an important mark for a local artist of any genre. This was Ish’s time to shine, as well as a little bit of a test for Milwaukee music at the festival, and both the artist and the fans proved that there’s interest for local music here. IshDARR is the product of not only talent, but of smart methods to reach and communicate with a young crowd, and that paid off on Tuesday night. We may see IshDARR headline Summerfest again in the coming years, and judging by Tuesday night, he may be somewhere even bigger on the grounds.

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