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.

Another shot of  rocking out at the Ottawa Tulip Festival in 2004.
Another shot of Benjamin Kowalewicz rocking out at the Ottawa Tulip Festival in 2004. Photo: Brian Garson (Junked Camera)

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.


  • I think it’s pretty unfair to say that the Tulip Festival isn’t bringing in good musical acts anymore – especially if any comparison is being made to other events like Bluesfest. A lot of the other events in Ottawa that do bring in some big name bands exist to do just that – bring in musical acts. The Tulip Festival is mostly about flowers, friendship and family – and also provides music and other entertainment as a bonus.
    It was great that they had Billy Talent back in 2004 when the band was relatively unknown, but people had to pay to go see them and other bands – now the festival is free. The bigger the band – the bigger the cost, and the Tulip Festival is a not-for-profit organization.
    I know your article was mostly about your love of Billy Talent – and they are an amazing band – but big bands won’t get added to a line-up if people aren’t willing to pay money to see them.

    • Hi Charly, thanks for the feedback. I was in no way trashing the Tulip Festival. I am a big fan of what they are doing now, they also include a lot of local music which is great. I was simply stating that they no longer bring in the big acts like they used to, this is fact, not criticism.

      Maybe I could have phrased it better and did not mean to offend, but it was great to have access to bigger bands for free like we did back in the day.

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