Throwback Thursday: Billy Talent @ The Tulip Festival 2004
Benjamin Kowalewicz, lead singer of Billy Talent, rocking out at the Tulip Festival in Ottawa in 2004. Photo: Brian Garson (Junked Camera)
With the Ottawa summer festival season now behind us I thought it might be fun to look back to one of the festivals that used to really kick ass musically, the Tulip Festival. The Tulip Festival used to bring in some heavy hitters, for example Billy Talent, Glass Tiger, Reverend Horton Heat, Trooper and many more in 2004. Sadly the festival no longer brings in those types of musical acts, but on the plus side Ottawa does have a plethora of music festivals now compared to then.
Unfortunately for me, I missed out on most of the bands listed not named Billy Talent, but this bothered me very little at the time as I was really into the band from Mississauga, ON. Billy Talent rolled into town riding their hugely successful debut self-titled album. I am pretty sure this was one of the first times I had seen them live and could not get over how much lead singer, Benjamin Kowalewicz, danced and posed like my beloved rock god Iggy Pop. However the comparison ended there, Kowalewicz had a very different sound, he was more of a screamer.
The show was very high energy, enetertaining and filled with all my favourite songs from the debut. Songs like the hit single “Try Honesty,” the super punk rock track “Voices of Violence,” the darker “Nothing to Lose” and one of my all time favourites by the band “This is How It Goes.” Other than the dance moves, the most memorable moment was when Kowalewicz grabbed a fake tulip close to four times his size and ripped it to shred. The staff standing in the side stage area looked horrified and while the crowd erupted and loved every minute of it.
Interesting facts about the self-titled album, in 2005 it was ranked number 453 in Rock Hard magazine’s book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time and in 2007 it was certified three times Platinum in Canada. Feel nostalgic like me and relive Billy Talent’s debut album, streaming below for your listening pleasure.
Amnesia Rockfest 2014: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Amnesia Rockfest at Montebello was the best of times and the worst of times.
The good was pretty great. The line-up assembled by the organizers was epic and featured so many amazing bands it was hard to choose which stage to attend at times. I must admit it was pretty awesome to go from The Planet Smashers to NOFX, to Taking Back Sunday, to Brand New, to Meshuggah, to Weezer. Not every festival can bring the ska then shift to punk, then have you relive your high school emo days, followed by blowing you away with Swedish math-metal and then have you on an island in the sun with California nerd-pop-punksters.
Weezer covering Blur’s “Song 2” was pretty cool. Sitting back and watching a massive puff of smoke envelop the crowd as Cypress Hill hit the stage was hilarious. Seeing the ridiculous passion and power of Obey the Brave. The ultra-bizarre spectacle that is Primus which was followed by Joan Jett was an interesting transition and a few checks on the bucket list. Kicking back and listening to Billy Talent just play hit after hit after hit and singing along with all my friends. Being disappointed that Danzig just isn’t what he used to be, until he was finally joined on stage by Doyle and they slammed through most of my favourite Misfits songs like bats out of hell. Getting to see Bane again, who really knows how to engage a crowd. Yelling along to Bigwig again after all these years, the boys still got it.
The devil’s juice, Octane, a tall boy with 7% alcohol and something like 130 mg of caffeine. Believe me when I say Lucifer is behind this product, it wields ungodly powers.
I also found Rockfest’s prices very fair. There were multiple food options (chip stand, Mexican, vegan, etc.), beers were $5, mixed drinks were $6, and water was something like $2 or $3. Also several well-placed, free water refill stations. The camping where we were staying had food options open late and a bar for those needing a “night cap.”
Now for the bad: Montebello is a beautiful place and very accommodating, but the city simply does not have the infrastructure the 200,000 people reported to have attended this year. Rockfest has grown too big and maybe too fast. There is one off-ramp and it is chaos, so what should have taken five minutes took three hours. I’m sure that logistically it’s a nightmare but I have to believe there’s a better way to proceed. After getting off we arrived to a dead-end with cars trying to find their way out and others parked to drop off their camping gear. The main parking lot was closed due to the heavy rain, we went to another lot lot a kilometre away (which was full), we finally parked where we shouldn’t have after a cop told us he wouldn’t fine us, and we heard of shuttles from the lots to the campsite but we never saw them… We missed a lot of incredible acts that drew me to the festival during this.
A shot from our camp site, us and over 3000 other tents.
The next shortcoming was the setup of the two secondary stages that faced each other, that always always had acts on at the same time. It was the worst sound bleed I have ever experienced at any festival. This was most apparent on Saturday when Danzig was on one stage and Grimskunk was overpowering him from the other. It ruined some songs and sometimes entire sets.
Having heard some of the stories from last year, we treated ourselves to VIP tickets. Here’s a quick breakdown of these tickets:
- The Good: four VIP-only outhouses and a private bar where we never had to wait in a line of more than four people.
- The Bad: reserved seating was all the way at the back far from the main stage and perfectly placed in the sound bleed of the two secondary stages.
- The Ugly: we were promised shade but the only place there was any was under the bleechers. We were promised “access to all showcase nights at intimate venues on June 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 22nd,” and “Private tent (shade!)” We got none of those things, the worst of which was never hearing anything about these intimate or secere shows…
Lastly, and this doesn’t fit into any category, it was very noticeable and rather funny the amount of people wearing t-shirts/tank tops with “Smoke Meth and Hail Satan” written on them. They outnumbered any and every other piece of clothing throughout the festival.
Billy Talent, Half Moon Run and July Talk @ the Bronson Center
Billy Talent at the Bronson Center.
Billy Talent roared onto the stage at the Bronson Centre on Labour Day and for a great cause. The boys from Toronto are currently touring Canada and playing smaller venues while raising money for the Red Cross to help the victims of the Lac Mégantic explosions.
Billy Talent set the bar high right away opening with the blistering ”Devil in a Midnight Mass.” Most of the balcony rose from their seats from the strum of the first note, but after the first song the rest were ordered to stand.
The sold-out crowd loved every minute of it. Any time lead singer, Ben Kowalewicz, pointed the mic to the crowd they would complete the lyrics, no matter the song. Billy Talent were also fans of the opening acts. “Did you guys like July Talk and Half Moon Run?” asked Kowalewicz. “Pretty darn good eh, goes to show how fucking awesome our country is.”
Kowaleicz, expressed his disdain for Labour Day because it always meant school was about to start. “How many people have to go to school tomorrow? That’s one of my least favourite days in the world. I would hate going to school, picking out clothes, trying to look good,” he said. Then came excellent advice for the younger crowd to hang onto: “Just remember, all those people who think they’re cool, they’re gonna end up as janitors. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a janitor. But if there’s that cool guy walking the halls that you just wanna punch in the face, just ignore him because he’s gonna get what’s coming to him.”
The set had sprinkles of new and old, spanning 10 years of albums – yeah you feel old now, don’t you? The highlight for me was the three song onslaught of ”This is How It Goes,” ”River Below” and ”Try Honesty,” before they left the stage. They returned for an encore to cap off their set with ”Fallen Leaves” and ”Red Flag.”
Last time I saw Half Moon Run, it was a hot sunny afternoon at Bluesfest, it may have been even hotter this time inside the Bronson Centre. Their energy is as infectious as their sound. This band will explode soon and will not be playing small venues like this for a long time, so I am very glad to have seen them in this setting. Another cool thing about this band is they have a set of keys on the drums where the hi-tom and mid-tom would be. It is pretty mind blowing to watch someone drum and play keys at the same time. I truly love their song, “Call Me In The Afternoon,” where there are three members of the four on stage playing percussion. The song is so catchy! They concluded their performance with their first single, “Full circle.”
Opening up the night was July Talk from Toronto. They have two very different voices that work amazing together. Guitarist and vocals, Peter Dreimanis, has a strong and raspy rock voice, while vocalist, Leah Fay, has a soft cute voice, but my God they complement each other wonderfully. A prime example of that is their single “Paper Girl,” which is also the song they used to closed with. During their set they did something I have never seen done before: Fay sang an entire song while balancing a water bottle on her head. I look forward to seeing them again, they were one of the best first acts I have seen in a while.