Thick smoke, bright vibes at Isaiah Rashad’s Lil Sunny Tour

Isaiah Rashad with Jay IDK at Fortune Sound Club, 3/22/17

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Demand for tickets to Isaiah Rashad’s Vancouver stop last Wednesday was so high, Fortune Sound Club added a second show on the same night. Both sold out, and however the early show went, there was no doubt Rashad rode its momentum into his nearly perfect late set.

Opener Jay IDK fired up the crowd with an hour-long DJ mix of immediately identifiable hits. Fans ate up Kodak Black’s “SKRT”, Kendrick Lamar’s “A.D.H.D.”, Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps”, Rae Sremmurd’s “No Type”, Desiigner’s “Panda”, Kaytranada’s “Glowed Up”, Biggie’s certified classic “Hypnotize”, and much, much more. By 12:33 a.m., though, the crowd was ready to hear live rapping. They began chanting “I-sai-ah! I-sai-ah!,” and as if on cue, the rising Tennessee rapper hit the stage – again.

The floor bounced and smoke filled the room for two-and-a-half straight hours, from 11:30 p.m. when IDK laid down his first track until the 2 a.m. curfew. Even slow groovers like “Cilvia Demo” and “4r Da Squaw” got fans jumping.

Rashad made sure everyone was having a good time. Acknowledging that there were people there to see the show, people there to get drunk, and people there to turn up, he urged everyone to chill out, respect and take care of one another, and, if necessary, “nudge ‘em with your elbow and just say, ‘I’m not comfortable.’” He even warned someone at the front not to “do that shit” (what “that shit” was I couldn’t see) and said he’d move the person’s ass to the back. “And they’ll help me. They’ll do it,” Rashad said, pointing to the rest of the crowd. Whatever the person did, he kept up with it, and Rashad pulled the trigger: “All right, get his ass outta here!” I didn’t see any movement except laughing faces, but it was the sentiment that counted.

Rashad also encouraged everyone to share. “Puff, puff, pass that shit.” His crew passed around bottles of water. “Share it, share it! But don’t throw that shit!” As he extolled the virtues of water and reminded everyone to stay hydrated, he began sounding like H20-obsessed Mick Jenkins.

By 1:30 a.m., the wear on Rashad’s voice began to show. He powered through nonetheless on a new track. “Don’t let nobody know you heard that shit.” (Sorry, Isaiah.) The strain on his already gruff voice was even more apparent on a cappella moments during the slinky “Rope/Rosegold” and the laidback, almost dreamlike “Stuck in the Mud”. A two-minute pause followed, but the deep drop that kicked off “Smile” was worth the wait. From there, Rashad snapped right into “Free Lunch” and returned for an encore, “Park”. Chris Calor, who laid down beats behind him all night, played on as Rashad disappeared offstage for good, the performance winding down rather than finishing with a bang.

Even before Isaiah Rashad hit the stage, fans took keeping the peace into their own hands. “Up and down, not side to side,” fans kept reminding the increasingly twisted and sloppy members of the crowd. A few contentious face-offs ensued, but ultimately, more joints and bottles of water got passed around than hostile epithets. The crowd was on, bodies went up and down, and no one actually got their ass kicked to the back. Rashad brought positive vibes, creating a supportive, inclusive environment (except for one apparently out-of-line fan), and Vancouver was lucky to have gotten a double-dose.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu