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.
Popping My Alexisonfire Cherry @ Babylon in 2003
Photo by Junked Camera
Many of you may not be old enough to remember this, but MuchMusic used to actually have musical programming. I know, I know, it’s crazy to think that now, considering all they do is “reality TV.” But many of their programs used to be an amazing sources for discovering music, namely the Punk Show and Going Costal.
One night in late 2002, or early 2003, while sitting in my parents’ basement and watching Going Costal, I discovered this band that forever changed my outlook on music. A little screamo band from St. Catharines, Ontario, and that band was Alexisonfire. I had never seen or heard such raw energy, power and passion as the now defunct band played in “Pulmonary Archery.”
Alexisonfire quickly became my favourite band and their debut album never left my Discman. In June 2003, they came to town. I couldn’t wait to go see them, and on top of that they were playing one of my favourite venues, Babylon (which used to do a lot of all-ages shows). Alexsionfire’s performance was breath-taking, infectious, loud, sweaty, bloody, and made me a lifelong fan. Three moments from the set really stood out. First was how often lead singer George Pettit would hold the mic out to the crowd and how many times I got to scream into it, most notably during my favourite songs “.44 Caliber Love Letter” and “Adelaide.” Try to find me in the image at the top of the article. (Hint: I used to have a lot more hair back then.)
George Pettit aiming his “shotgun” at Dallas Green as the band begins a song at Babylon Nightclub in Ottawa in 2003. Photo: Junked Camera
The second truly memorable thing from the Alexisonfire set was how hardcore they were. During the set, bass player Chris Steele swung his bass and clipped guitarist and vocalist Dallas Green in the face. Green did not miss a beat or even a lyric and kept going through a growing crimson mask. You can see the blood running down his face in the photo just above, as I am sure many of you would find this toughness hard to believe from the soft and sad man behind City and Colour.
The third image engraved in my mind from that night, was how lead singer Pettit started a song, and it kills me not to remember which one it was! Pettit would stand there pretending to hold a shotgun and proceed to “shoot” the band members when it was their time to kick in, as also seen in the photo above (thanks Junked Camera for capturing so much of this great Ottawa history.) Something about that moment, that showmanship, that stage presence, has stuck with me to this very day. I went on to see Alexisonfire another dozen or so times but this night, the very first time I saw them, remains my favourite.