Meow! Kittie's Got Claws: How Did a Teen, All-Female Metal Band Land at the Center of the Summer's Loudest Concert Tour? Seventy-Two Hours at Ozzfest with the Girls from London, Ontario
Ali, Lorraine, Newsweek
The Ozzfest 2000 is no place for a nice girl, and that's exactly why the teenage band Kittie is one of the heavy-metal tour's most curious attractions. Cute yet caustic, it is the only female band to play on this very male tour founded by Ozzy Osbourne, and the only formidable gal presence in the current resurgence of testosterone-fueled hard rock. The former basement band of London, Ontario, teens (they met in gymnastics class four years ago) has sold 500,000 copies of its debut, "Spit," since January, and is now deemed "Buzzworthy" by MTV for the single "Charlotte." Its vicious, guttural sound will grab a whole new slew of fans (approximately 18,000 per stop) as it plays the second stage of the 29-city Ozzfest tour--and win the black hearts of main-stage acts like Pantera and Ozzy himself. So what does a day in the life of a road Kittie entail? Step onto the tour bus, if you dare, and don't forget your favorite lipstick.
It's around 5 p.m. on the Clarkston, Mich., stop of the tour, and the dude-heavy audience flocks to Kittie like moths to a pretty purple bug zapper. Tattooed Godsmack fans and longhaired Ozzy worshipers squeeze into the small area around the second stage as singer Morgan Lander greets them with a Kittie hello: "Ready, motherf-----s?!" She unleashes a primal roar while her sister, drummer Mercedes Lander, kicks in a gut-pummeling beat. Talena Atfield's eyes roll back into her head as she hits the first bass notes, while thick reverb from guitarist Fallon Bowman riles the mainly male audience into a moshing frenzy. Fans fling themselves at the stage while, in back, casual listeners step over a passed-out female to get a closer look at Kittie. The band (the girls won't disclose their ages but probably average out at around 17) plays the allotted 20 minutes, spits water all over the audience, then leaves them with a short, sweet "See ya, motherf-----s." These are the only words of the set that are intelligible, but it doesn't matter: fans know that Kittie sings about the confusing emotional stuff--major identity crises, battles with inner ugliness--that most other Ozzfest bands can't even begin to express with such gusto.
'Kittie, I Love You!'
The band head for the bus, looking like Japanese cartoon characters in their chunky moonboots, baby T's, spiky hair and black nail polish. "Kittie, I love you!" yells a starry-eyed fan, and they acknowledge his adoration by flashing the horns of the Devil (make a fist, then raise your forefinger and pinkie in the air). That gets a big cheer--Satan's always a crowd pleaser. On the bus, they relive the show, bragging about how they kicked two girls off the stage for baring their breasts to the crowd. "I told her to get offstage and take her STDs with her," sneers Talena through black lipstick. "You rock," says Morgan, high-fiving her bandmate, their silver rings and leather-studded bracelets slapping together in metal solidarity. Kittie have enough moxie to stomp on the shirt-lifting metal tradition and still rock the house, but they shun any notion that they're on a mission to empower. "We are people," Morgan insists, "not girls in a band." It's a mind-set that gets them through, for now.
It's 30 minutes until a meet-and-greet session with the fans. Talena sits back with some Pokemon cereal, eating it out of the box, Pikachu by Pikachu. Fallon watches "American Beauty" on the TV mounted above the bus's lounge area. She zeros in on Mena Suvari's character, a blond high-school babe. "She reminds me of those stuck-up girls at school--you know, the ones who said, 'Don't lean on my locker or you'll get grease stains on it'." The girls feel their outcast status united them back in 1996, when they were "the only nonconservatives in town," liked bands like Silverchair and decided to play Slayer songs in their parents' basements.
At the autograph-signing session, Kittie are clearly the most popular gals around. Manager Dave Lander (a. …