Lorraine Ali

Stories by Lorraine Ali

  • 'A Horrible Nightmare'

    Rain-soaked fans pressed hard toward the stage as Pearl Jam cranked out tunes last Friday night at the Roskilde festival just outside Copenhagen. Between songs, concerned band members urged the audience to stop pushing, but thousands continued to shove forward. Finally, a barrier between the stage and the crowd snapped; fans in front lost their footing on the slippery mud and disappeared under the crush of the crowd. The toll: eight dead and dozens injured in one of Europe's worst concert tragedies. "There were scenes of pushing, panic, shouts," said concertgoer Lars Nielsen, one of 90,000 people at the four-day European equivalent of Woodstock. "Then the music stopped, [and it was] replaced by howls and screams. It was unbearable."The Seattle quintet expressed its grief in a statement on Sony Music's Web site: "I think we are all waiting for someone to wake us up and say it was just a horrible nightmare." It isn't the first time rock fans have been trampled to death at a concert-...
  • There's A New Kid In Town

    Messy hair, a small nose ring and a worn, hooded sweater hardly make P. J. Olsson a standout figure among the schmoozy players and surgically altered starlets who grace the patio of L.A.'s pricey, high-profile Chateau Marmont hotel. The 29-year-old looks more like a busboy, fresh off the Greyhound from Michigan, chasing some vague notion of Hollywood fame. Still, people stare: he's too comfortable, too easygoing, and if he's brave enough to walk in here in that outfit, he must be someone.But they don't know P. J. Olsson--yet. Before today, Olsson's debut album, "Words for Living," wasn't even out, and he was busy honing his pleasant bastardization of pop for niche audiences across the country. They simply pay attention because the eccentric composer does not fit in--a distinction that's finally working for P. J. Olsson. "People always used to say, 'Well, he hasn't really found his thing, found who he is yet'," says Olsson, who baffled audiences for years with a melange of breezy...
  • Wilco Wilco & Bragg Sing Woody

    The teaming of alternative country band Wilco and British folk singer Billy Bragg spawned one of 1998's most critically acclaimed albums, "Mermaid Avenue." The disc was an ode of sorts to salt-of-the-earth folk artist Woody Guthrie--Wilco and Bragg writing music to accompany never-before-recorded lyrics by the late protest singer. But "Mermaid II" is less a tribute to Guthrie or our vanishing past than a testament to how much things haven't changed.The midcentury lyrics are eerily relevant on songs such as "Feed the Man." Here Wilco's humming organ and reverberating guitar back singer Jeff Tweedy as he brings Guthrie's commentary on the rat race to life: "I'll help you fix and squeeze yourself up a new kind of God, one that tells you fertilize and multiply, outsow and outblow, outplant and outgrow, outdo and outrun." Though Guthrie wrote this decades before the advent of Nasdaq-made millionaires, it feels like a direct re-buttal to our bloated, greedy times. Bragg's numbers are more...
  • Sizzling Sounds

    Mambo king Tito Puente, 77, rose to fame in the 1950s performing for cha-cha-cha-crazed American audiences, while his later work with Afro-Cuban rhythms helped spawn the burgeoning style of salsa. The Puerto Rican bandleader and timbales player recorded more than 100 albums in his 60-year career, though Carlos Santana's rendition of "Oye Como Va" proved Puente's biggest U.S. hit. He died last week from complications following heart surgery.William E. Simon was Treasury secretary under Nixon and Ford. He is widely credited with calming the nation's economic fears during the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s. He died at 72.
  • The Tiger Beat Goes On

    You can cuss in front of me," says Isaac Hanson to a photographer who nearly blurted the F word in front of the eldest member of the effervescent pop trio Hanson. "I'm not a kid, ya know. I'm 19," says the skinny singer-guitarist, who only recently had his braces removed. This small exchange in a Manhattan photo studio is just one of the many ways this wholesome-looking band of brothers is fighting for their right to adulthood. After all, when Isaac, Taylor, 17, and Zac, 14, burst on the scene three years ago with the debut single "MMMBop," they were not only a good 10 years younger than chart-topper Puff Daddy, but played a style of upbeat, kid-pop not heard since the Jackson 5. Hanson became premier pinup boys, while their debut "Middle of Nowhere" was deemed one of the decade's "Essential Albums" by Rolling Stone.Hanson was an anomaly, to say the least--a patch of blue sky in the otherwise murky fallout of mopey grunge, grinding industrial rock and roughneck rap. Major record...
  • Move Over, Sandra Dee

    I'm not that innocent," claims Britney Spears on the title track of her sophomore album and follow-up to last year's omnipresent "... Baby One More Time." The 18-year-old queen of bubble-gum pop could be commenting on the toll fame has taken on her young soul, or even the perils of coming of age, but it's more likely that the writers on the Britney Team (like the many workers that gave rise to the great and powerful Oz) turned to market research and decided each word was precisely what grade-school girls--the sparkly-nail-polish buyers of the world--wanted to hear.In the fashion of her 12-times platinum debut, "Oops!... I Did It Again" is a slick creation that has nothing to do with the girl behind the music. Not a beat here is left to chance: no one line can be interpreted as "telling" or any particular intonation as revealing. It's all in fun, at least for the listener who doesn't have to sing of prepubescent crushes while on the verge of turning 20.The new, improved Britney is a...
  • Still Young At Heart

    This isn't exactly my scene," says Neil Young, pulling his baseball hat low and slouching to avoid recognition as he shuffles through the ostentatious halls of the swanky Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas. In a T shirt so old that the faded logo looks like a stain, Young slips into the elevator, causing fellow passengers to gawk in silent awe. When Young exits on the wrong floor, a college-age rider gasps: "Whoa, that was The Man!"Remarkably, Young has remained The Man for three decades now. In all his ragged glory--craggy face, hair the same wispy mess it's been since his '69 solo debut--the eccentric composer is one of the few rock legends that haven't slipped down the inevitable slope of numbing mediocrity. The intensely private 54-year-old instead chose to team up with Pearl Jam on his last album rather than succumb to a "mature," easy-listening record. Even the recent reunion of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (whose 1999 album is approaching gold, and whose tour sold out)...