Loud Proud

20 Apr 19
Daily Bulletin
Millions around the world are tuning in to “American Idol” to cheer on Alejandro Aranda, the singer-songwriter from Pomona who has created a sensation with his humble manner, stocking caps, guitar plucking and heartfelt, falsetto vocals. In Pomona, you could have heard him for free, and with excellent sightlines. “Basically if you were hanging out in downtown Pomona last year, 2017, 2016, he was around doing open mics and performing,” open mic host Victor Martinez told me. “He was always really happy to perform.” Martinez ran shows at dba256 Bar and Gallery and at O’Donovan’s Pub. Even though Aranda was playing at bars where people typically treat live music as background to whatever conversations they’re having, his effect on audiences was electrifying. “He would play and everyone would kind of stop what they were doing,” Martinez said. “They were in awe. It was a real attention-getter. Sometimes it was four people in the room. He would get 100% of everyone’s attention.” Aranda last performed at open mic in July. Martinez next saw him in September, when Aranda mentioned he was auditioning for “Idol.” Previously, Martinez’s friend Paul Verdugo was hosting dba256 entertainment events starting in 2016. “He was a regular at the open mic,” Verdugo said of Aranda. They took place on a promotional night called Wine-down Wednesdays, with a comic, a few singers and half-price bottled wine from 4 to 7 p.m. “The open mic had no turnout. Two or three acts would show up. Alejandro was one of the first people to show up,” Verdugo said. “There was virtually no audience. The audience was whoever was performing.” Verdugo would text Aranda the day of the show to invite him to fill a slot. Even with the balky sound system, Aranda was riveting. “You knew he was something special. You would get goosebumps,” Verdugo said. He would introduce Aranda by saying: “If you’re holding onto your girl, hold her a little tighter or you’ll lose her to Alejandro’s voice.” Verdugo also did some group shows at Rev Brewing in Covina with himself as comic and Aranda and Raul Morales as singers. And he remembers booking Aranda to perform at a birthday party at Pizza Beer Wings in downtown Pomona. “What you see on ‘American Idol’ is what you would see at these bar shows and these brewery shows,” Verdugo said. You might also have seen Aranda performing on the sidewalks of downtown Claremont for tips, a practice known as busking. Greg Walsh, a fellow busker, said he’d seen Aranda primarily outside Rhino Records but also near 21 Choices and Gus’s BBQ. There’s video of Aranda performing his song “10 Years” inside the Village parking structure. “He’s really good, probably because he busks a lot. He was probably busking to get better,” Walsh said. “You have a need to perform.” For his March 6 “American Idol” audition, touted by ABC as the best in “Idol’s” 17 seasons, Aranda performed an original song, “Out Loud,” while clad in street clothes and stocking cap. He picked an acoustic guitar and swayed, eyes closed, as if he’d entered a private realm that viewers were allowed to observe. The judges were effusive, even by “Idol” standards. “I just feel like I’m in the presence of greatness,” Luke Bryan said. “There’s nothing like you, my friend,” Lionel Richie said. “I think you’re an absolute genius,” said Katy Perry, then added, probably unnecessarily, “Stay humble.” Aranda has made seven subsequent appearances, continuing to wow the trio. He’ll be back again Sunday as part of the show’s Top 10. Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks posted an appreciation to her Instagram page, writing in part: “He will play and sing across the great stages of the world.” Aranda has said little more than that he is a 24-year-old dishwasher whose hometown is Pomona and that he took up music about four years ago. Little is known about his personal life or family, which may be how he likes it. “There is a lot of mystery,” said Josh Swodeck, a Pomona Cultural Arts Commission member who lives downtown. “I heard he and his family made the decision not to have his family out there.” Martinez and Verdugo said Aranda really had been a dishwasher and held other odd jobs. “I don’t know a lot about his personal life,” Verdugo added. But he said Aranda’s demeanor on “American Idol” reflects who he is: shy, genuine, self-critical, someone who would deflect compliments. “He’s the nicest and humblest dude you would ever meet,” Verdugo said. Congratulations Alejandro Aranda @scarypoolparty on making it to the top ten on @AmericanIdol! We are rooting for you!#pomona #downtownpomona #americanidol #topten #vote #alejandroaranda pic.twitter.com/jBdnDIzEBk — Downtown Pomona (@DowntownPomona) April 16, 2019 Downtown Pomona’s Fox Theater put a supportive message for Aranda on the marquee and hosted an “Idol” viewing party April 14, at which an audience of 75 cheered whenever Aranda’s face came on the screen. The @CityofPomona council are all wearing “Pomona loves Alejandro” t-shirts in support of the hometown American Idol contestant Alejandro Aranda. Councilwoman Elizabeth Ontiveros-Cole is even sporting his signature beanie. pic.twitter.com/bEGEUPkc1v — Liset Márquez (@JournaLiset) April 16, 2019 Last Monday the City Council showed up to its meeting in custom “Pomona (Loves) Alejandro” T-shirts. Councilwoman Elizabeth Ontiveros Cole rocked an Aranda-style stocking cap. “I’ll tell you, people are talking about him around town,” Mayor Tim Sandoval told me Thursday. “They’re happy for him, they’re proud of him.” Sandoval and his wife, Criselda, have been glued to the TV to watch Aranda and they shed tears at his performances. Aranda comes across as humble, kind and touched with self-doubt, the mayor said — qualities that may make him symbolic of his hometown’s best qualities. “Even though his intention isn’t to be a representative of Pomona,” Sandoval said, “he certainly has captured the imagination of people not only here but all over the world.” Sandoval said he doesn’t know much about Aranda or where in town he grew up. Aranda is said to have been homeschooled. “There’s so much there that we don’t know. I have no doubt he’s had challenges in his life. His music reflects that,” Sandoval said. “Until he comes out to talk about his life, that’s his journey to tell.” Aranda performed in Pomona as recently as March 30 at a private backyard show hosted by Sofar San Gabriel Valley. “A majority of the people were there to see him,” said Liliana Pardo, one of the performers, who raps as Illsamar. Mariah Fierro, 21, told the Poly Post, Cal Poly Pomona’s newspaper: “I was super excited. There was even a moment where, before we were let in, he had walked right past me and I turned into this nervous fangirl.” Pardo, from Covina, performed immediately before Aranda. “I opened for him,” she told me Thursday, half-kidding but also proud. Aranda performed four songs, including “Out Loud,” and didn’t say much. “He didn’t even mention he was on ‘American Idol,’” Pardo said. “He’s so humble about who he is as a musician.” If there’s a takeaway from Aranda’s success, it might be to pay attention to buskers, open-mic performers and other small-venue musicians. Besides dba256 and O’Donovan’s, small performances take place at such downtown Pomona sites as Metro Ale House, Pizza Beer Wings, Krazy J’s, the Alley Gallery, the dA Center for the Arts and Flyway at the Fox. [related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-tag”] “There’s so much talent in the city, but it’s so hard to get people to come out. Or it’s the same 20 or 30 people,” Verdugo said. “Use this as a lesson: Come out and support people before they become famous,” Verdugo said. “When they do become famous, you can say, ‘I saw him at Wine Wednesday at dba in front of four people.” David Allen, no one’s idol, writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Email dallen@scng.com, phone 909-483-9339, visit insidesocal.com/davidallen, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.
20 Apr 19
SCNG
Millions around the world are tuning in to “American Idol” to cheer on Alejandro Aranda, the singer-songwriter from Pomona who has created a sensation with his humble manner, stocking caps, guitar plucking and heartfelt, falsetto vocals. In Pomona, you could have heard him for free, and with excellent sightlines. “Basically if you were hanging out in downtown Pomona last year, 2017, 2016, he was around doing open mics and performing,” open mic host Victor Martinez told me. “He was always really happy to perform.” Martinez ran shows at dba256 Bar and Gallery and at O’Donovan’s Pub. Even though Aranda was playing at bars where people typically treat live music as background to whatever conversations they’re having, his effect on audiences was electrifying. “He would play and everyone would kind of stop what they were doing,” Martinez said. “They were in awe. It was a real attention-getter. Sometimes it was four people in the room. He would get 100% of everyone’s attention.” Aranda last performed at open mic in July. Martinez next saw him in September, when Aranda mentioned he was auditioning for “Idol.” Previously, Martinez’s friend Paul Verdugo was hosting dba256 entertainment events starting in 2016. “He was a regular at the open mic,” Verdugo said of Aranda. They took place on a promotional night called Wine-down Wednesdays, with a comic, a few singers and half-price bottled wine from 4 to 7 p.m. “The open mic had no turnout. Two or three acts would show up. Alejandro was one of the first people to show up,” Verdugo said. “There was virtually no audience. The audience was whoever was performing.” Verdugo would text Aranda the day of the show to invite him to fill a slot. Even with the balky sound system, Aranda was riveting. “You knew he was something special. You would get goosebumps,” Verdugo said. He would introduce Aranda by saying: “If you’re holding onto your girl, hold her a little tighter or you’ll lose her to Alejandro’s voice.” Verdugo also did some group shows at Rev Brewing in Covina with himself as comic and Aranda and Raul Morales as singers. And he remembers booking Aranda to perform at a birthday party at Pizza Beer Wings in downtown Pomona. “What you see on ‘American Idol’ is what you would see at these bar shows and these brewery shows,” Verdugo said. You might also have seen Aranda performing on the sidewalks of downtown Claremont for tips, a practice known as busking. Greg Walsh, a fellow busker, said he’d seen Aranda primarily outside Rhino Records but also near 21 Choices and Gus’s BBQ. There’s video of Aranda performing his song “10 Years” inside the Village parking structure. “He’s really good, probably because he busks a lot. He was probably busking to get better,” Walsh said. “You have a need to perform.” For his March 6 “American Idol” audition, touted by ABC as the best in “Idol’s” 17 seasons, Aranda performed an original song, “Out Loud,” while clad in street clothes and stocking cap. He picked an acoustic guitar and swayed, eyes closed, as if he’d entered a private realm that viewers were allowed to observe. The judges were effusive, even by “Idol” standards. “I just feel like I’m in the presence of greatness,” Luke Bryan said. “There’s nothing like you, my friend,” Lionel Richie said. “I think you’re an absolute genius,” said Katy Perry, then added, probably unnecessarily, “Stay humble.” Aranda has made seven subsequent appearances, continuing to wow the trio. He’ll be back again Sunday as part of the show’s Top 10. Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks posted an appreciation to her Instagram page, writing in part: “He will play and sing across the great stages of the world.” Aranda has said little more than that he is a 24-year-old dishwasher whose hometown is Pomona and that he took up music about four years ago. Little is known about his personal life or family, which may be how he likes it. “There is a lot of mystery,” said Josh Swodeck, a Pomona Cultural Arts Commission member who lives downtown. “I heard he and his family made the decision not to have his family out there.” Martinez and Verdugo said Aranda really had been a dishwasher and held other odd jobs. “I don’t know a lot about his personal life,” Verdugo added. But he said Aranda’s demeanor on “American Idol” reflects who he is: shy, genuine, self-critical, someone who would deflect compliments. “He’s the nicest and humblest dude you would ever meet,” Verdugo said. Congratulations Alejandro Aranda @scarypoolparty on making it to the top ten on @AmericanIdol! We are rooting for you!#pomona #downtownpomona #americanidol #topten #vote #alejandroaranda pic.twitter.com/jBdnDIzEBk — Downtown Pomona (@DowntownPomona) April 16, 2019 Downtown Pomona’s Fox Theater put a supportive message for Aranda on the marquee and hosted an “Idol” viewing party April 14, at which an audience of 75 cheered whenever Aranda’s face came on the screen. The @CityofPomona council are all wearing “Pomona loves Alejandro” t-shirts in support of the hometown American Idol contestant Alejandro Aranda. Councilwoman Elizabeth Ontiveros-Cole is even sporting his signature beanie. pic.twitter.com/bEGEUPkc1v — Liset Márquez (@JournaLiset) April 16, 2019 Last Monday the City Council showed up to its meeting in custom “Pomona (Loves) Alejandro” T-shirts. Councilwoman Elizabeth Ontiveros Cole rocked an Aranda-style stocking cap. “I’ll tell you, people are talking about him around town,” Mayor Tim Sandoval told me Thursday. “They’re happy for him, they’re proud of him.” Sandoval and his wife, Criselda, have been glued to the TV to watch Aranda and they shed tears at his performances. Aranda comes across as humble, kind and touched with self-doubt, the mayor said — qualities that may make him symbolic of his hometown’s best qualities. “Even though his intention isn’t to be a representative of Pomona,” Sandoval said, “he certainly has captured the imagination of people not only here but all over the world.” Sandoval said he doesn’t know much about Aranda or where in town he grew up. Aranda is said to have been homeschooled. “There’s so much there that we don’t know. I have no doubt he’s had challenges in his life. His music reflects that,” Sandoval said. “Until he comes out to talk about his life, that’s his journey to tell.” Aranda performed in Pomona as recently as March 30 at a private backyard show hosted by Sofar San Gabriel Valley. “A majority of the people were there to see him,” said Liliana Pardo, one of the performers, who raps as Illsamar. Mariah Fierro, 21, told the Poly Post, Cal Poly Pomona’s newspaper: “I was super excited. There was even a moment where, before we were let in, he had walked right past me and I turned into this nervous fangirl.” Pardo, from Covina, performed immediately before Aranda. “I opened for him,” she told me Thursday, half-kidding but also proud. Aranda performed four songs, including “Out Loud,” and didn’t say much. “He didn’t even mention he was on ‘American Idol,'” Pardo said. “He’s so humble about who he is as a musician.” If there’s a takeaway from Aranda’s success, it might be to pay attention to buskers, open-mic performers and other small-venue musicians. Besides dba256 and O’Donovan’s, small performances take place at such downtown Pomona sites as Metro Ale House, Pizza Beer Wings, Krazy J’s, the Alley Gallery, the dA Center for the Arts and Flyway at the Fox. [related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-tag”] “There’s so much talent in the city, but it’s so hard to get people to come out. 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