American Idol hometown visit brings Alejandro Aranda, and thousands of fans, to Pomona – Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

American Idol hometown visit brings Alejandro Aranda, and thousands of fans, to Pomona - Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Livingston Parish overrun with fans for Laine Hardy parade, concert

On the streets of his hometown of Pomona, “American Idol” finalist Alejandro Aranda was hailed Tuesday by thousands of fans who call themselves Alejomies.

They flocked downtown to cheer on Aranda, a 24-year-old dishwasher whose followers are captivated by not only his voice and guitar playing but by his humble background and regular-guy demeanor. A parade wound through downtown, ending at the historic Fox Theater, where Aranda performed six songs on a stage set up in the street.

“He is definitely America’s sweetheart right now,” Rachel Boell, who does sales and marketing for the Fox, told me the day before. “He has that edge ‘Idol’ needs.”

The last 48 hours have been a blur of unreal emotion as he secured his spot in the top three of the show, launching him one step closer to taking home the top prize. Its a dream that doesnt quite seem real for the 18-year-old, but even as a national phenomenon, he knows none of it would be possible without the outpouring of support from the place he calls home.

Video: Alejandro Aranda Sings “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” by Elton John – American Idol 2019

Things don’t always break Pomona’s way. Had Aranda been eliminated Sunday, the parade and concert planned by “Idol” would have been canceled. Even when he made it, there could have been rain Tuesday, or an asteroid could have struck the city. In Pomona, anything can happen.

But Aranda made it, the skies were clear, the day was warm and everything seemed to go off without a hitch.

Livingston Parish was overrun Tuesday evening as thousands of fans descended on Highway 190 to celebrate in a true Louisiana way, with a parade and concert where they threw their full support behind their boy from the Bayou State.

Alejandro Aranda, Pomonas American Idol contestant, already a winner to hometown crowd

Artist Gus Moran, of Pomona, makes an ÒAlejandro IdolÓ symbol as work crews assemble the stage for American Idol finalist Alejandro Aranda, of Pomona, to perform for his fans outside the Pomona Fox Theater in Pomona on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Pomona Mayor Tim Sandoval declares it “Alejandro Aranda Day” in honor of American Idol finalist Alejandro Aranda, of Pomona, outside the Pomona Fox Theater after a parade in his honor in Pomona on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Left off this list is Alejandro, who is expected to get a solo spot on the season wrap-up. One might presume he will do a reprise of one of his original compositions that he performed previously. Another change from what was released before: The entire Top 10, and not just Uche, will jam with Kool & the Gang. Changes might still be pending for this line-up, but it is bound to be quite the show.

Nearby residents watch as American Idol finalist Alejandro Aranda, of Pomona, performs for his fans outside the Pomona Fox Theater after a parade in his honor in Pomona on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

We who idolize “American Idol” already know which artists will perform on this Sunday’s live finale starting at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT alongside Alejandro Aranda, Laine Hardy and Madison VanDenburg — the Top 3 contestants who are vying for the Season 17 title. They include all three judges — Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan.

American Idol finalist Alejandro Aranda, of Pomona, right, raises his “Golden Mic” from the City of Pomona and Mayor Tim Sandoval, left, outside the Pomona Fox Theater after a parade in his honor in Pomona on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

But Gold Derby —  along with “Billboard” magazine — has scored an exclusive look at what actual songs will be done by the participating performers, included singers previously eliminated on the show. Here is the line-up of grand finale numbers, which could be expanded or changed by showtime:

American Idol finalist Alejandro Aranda, of Pomona, right, greets Ben Harper before they perform outside the Pomona Fox Theater after a parade in Aranda’s honor in Pomona on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

SEE ‘American Idol’ winner predictions: Alejandro Aranda widens lead over Laine Hardy, but what about Madison?

Video: Laine Hardy Sings “Something About the Way You Look Tonight” by Elton John – American Idol 2019

American Idol finalist Alejandro Aranda, of Pomona, is filmed for the American Idol finale as he performs outside the Pomona Fox Theater after a parade in Aranda’s honor in Pomona on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

American Idol finalist Alejandro Aranda, of Pomona, performs for his fans outside the Pomona Fox Theater after a parade in Aranda’s honor in Pomona on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

A young fan watches as American Idol finalist Alejandro Aranda, of Pomona, performs for his fans outside the Pomona Fox Theater after a parade in his honor in Pomona on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

The phrases “Alejandro Aranda’s Homecoming Parade” and “Welcome Home Alejandro” were emblazoned across the marquee outside the Fox Theater on Garey Avenue on Tuesday as spectators awaited Pomona-raised “American Idol” finalist Alejandro Aranda.

American Idol finalist Alejandro Aranda to be welcomed back to Pomona hometown with parade

American Idol finalist Alejandro Aranda, of Pomona, performs for his fans outside the Pomona Fox Theater after a parade in Aranda’s honor in Pomona on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Two young fans watch as American Idol finalist Alejandro Aranda, of Pomona, performs for his fans outside the Pomona Fox Theater after a parade in his honor in Pomona on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

And Pomona’s mayor, Tim Sandoval, was all decked out in an Aranda T-shirt as members of a growing crowd held signs saying “Alejandro we <3 U,” “Team Alejandro” and “We <3 Our Hometown Homie!”

Expand “Does it look like anything went wrong today?” Mark Gluba, Pomona’s deputy city manager, said outside the Fox as we waited for the concert with thousands of others. “Everything went right. It’s turned out pretty amazing. There’s a ton of people. I really think we nailed it.”

Aranda, though, has repeatedly played his own compositions on the show, and been encouraged and praised for that by judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. He played an original for his audition and later in competition played his own songs such as Cholo Love, Poison and Blesser. Add to that his talent on the guitar — probably one of the best Idol players ever — and piano — and you understand why acclaimed musician Ben Harper has been one of his biggest cheerleaders, not only as a performer from the same part of Southern California but as one who gets what makes a singer-songwriter special.

Businesses downtown posted homemade signs in their windows, some made by students, some by store owners.

Video: Laine Hardy Sings “Cant You See” by The Marshall Tucker Band – Bobbys Pick – American Idol 2019

Paola Vega, co-owner of Mi Cafecito coffee in downtown Pomona, makes a sign for their window using the hashtag #Alejomies pic.twitter.com/FwOep0N0Vh

Sisters Stephanie, Katia and Larissa Arias carried signs of their own and a lot of Pomona pride in their hearts. Stephanie Arias, 27, is the oldest and remembers when Idol used to grant its title to country singers and more traditional pop stars — not a beanie-and-flannel-wearing shy guy like Aranda, whose vocals and music feel modern and timeless at the same time.

Video: Laine Hardy Sings “Cant You See” by The Marshall Tucker Band – Bobbys Pick – American Idol 2019

Laine Hardy Day: Livingston Parish hosts parade, concert for American Idol finalist

“What’s nice is seeing the community come together. We’re a big city, and in a big city you can get lost,” said Paola Vega, co-owner of the downtown coffeehouse Mi Cafecito in the city of 160,000, as she made a poster Tuesday afternoon. “I really feel like Pomonans are proud.”

A parade Tuesday afternoon was led by the Garey High color guard in white sailor suits, followed by the Garey marching band in blue and white, playing T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong.” Aranda rode in a 1964 Chevy Impala convertible — a lowrider, naturally — with a nephew. Aranda waved, smiled and tended to look bashful. But when a man walked up for a fist bump, Aranda cheerfully complied.

They brought signs of encouragement to wave from the crowd as Aranda arrived after a short parade, riding in the front car in a parade of classic lowriders. Marry me, Alejandro! one read, though many more picked up on his — and judge Katy Perrys — familiar greeting of homie when talking to each other on the show.

Louisiana Gov. Edwards proclaims today as Laine Hardy Day; Louisiana is going to party

“They’re getting a taste of Pomona, a taste of Southern California, with these lowriders,” resident Ron Vander Molen told me with a chuckle. “They’ve never seen anything like this on ‘American Idol’ (on hometown visits). They’re usually a bunch of bumpkins out in the country driving tractors.”

Alejandro Aranda visited his hometown of Pomona Tuesday, and the "American Idol" finalist was met with screaming fans everywhere he went.

Councilman Rubio Gonzalez, who was in the crowd, reminded me that Pomona was on the national stage last November when resident Mary Ann Borer played on “Jeopardy!” and with Aranda is now on the world stage.

Alejandro Aranda visited his hometown of Pomona Tuesday, and the "American Idol" finalist was met with screaming fans everywhere he went.

“Pomona is a place for smart people. Pomona is a place for talented musicians,” Gonzalez said. “The people outside Pomona still prejudge us. But the local people know what’s up.”

On the stage, Mayor Tim Sandoval, clad in an Alejandro T-shirt, led the crowd in a sports-like chant: “Ale-jandro, Ale-jandro, Ale-jandro.”

In addition, Madison is set to sing “All To Myself” and “Speechless” with Dan + Shay while Laine is linking up with Jon Pardi for a medley of “Nightshift” and “Dirt On My Boots.” No word yet on who will duet with Alejandro. Which of the Top 3 do you think will win season 17 of “American Idol”? Cast a ballot for your favorite in our poll below. And be sure to sound off on this ABC revival of “American Idol” in the comments section.

Pomonas Alejandro Aranda from American Idol to get hometown welcome — what you need to know

Alejandro Aranda is hugged by Pomona Mayor Tim Sandoval, who had led the crowd outside the Fox in a sports-like chant of Ale-jandro, Ale-jandro, Ale-jandro. pic.twitter.com/6sZLLGtEm6

The other Top 5 act, Wade Cota, will sing with Walker Burroughs (who was axed on the Top 8 show) and the band Weezer a medley of “Africa,” “Take On Me” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”  And Top 10 artist Uche will jam with Kool and the Gang on “Hollywood Swinging,” “Ladies Night” and “Celebrate.”

After a break, he was introduced by musician Ben Harper of Claremont as “a once-in-a-generation artist, and he’s from the 909.” Aranda and Harper performed “There Will Be a Light,” the Harper song on which they had duetted on TV. Then Aranda did six of his own songs on guitar and piano.

Each of the judges will raise their voice in song. Katy Perry will sing with Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon, who made it as far as the Top 6. Lionel Richie will be backed by the Top 10 for “Dancing on the Ceiling.” And Luke Bryan will duet with Laci Kaye Booth, who just missed out on the Top 3,  on “Knockin’ Boots” and “Every Breath You Take.”

“This is the first time I’ve been able to play a song longer than a minute and a half,” Aranda joked of TV’s time strictures. He was onstage for 50 minutes.

The “American Idol” finale airs live nationwide on ABC beginning at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET Sunday, May 19. The Top 3 contestants still in the running for the season 16 title are Alejandro Aranda, Laine Hardy and Madison VanDenburg. Each of this trio of hopefuls will perform three songs on the three-hour final.

From his position on the stage, Aranda could look to his right and see O’Donovan’s, one of the venues where he sang at open-mic nights as late as last year.

While little is known about Aranda’s upbringing, he’s known to have performed regularly at open mic nights around downtown from 2016 to 2018, sometimes before only a handful of people.

FRENCH SETTLEMENT, La. (WAFB) – With signs in hands, shirts reading Vote for Laine Hardy, and even a handmade guitar a young boy hoped to give to the singer himself, French Settlement High and elementary students packed their school gym Tuesday, May 14 to welcome the performer home for a visit.

“He’s done open mics here a ton of times before. When I saw he was on ‘American Idol,’ I thought, that’s crazy,” said Destiny Romero, a bartender.

Hardy says hes trying to process that hes become an overnight national sensation after making top three on American Idol. The French Settlement native hasnt been home in months and on Tuesday, he was welcomed back by his former principal and led into a pep rally in his honor.

“He was one of the few people who would do originals. Really pretty voice too,” Romero said. “Quiet too. He would keep to himself, perform two songs, then leave.”

How the American Idol Top 3 Plan to Win the Competition

Aranda visited the bar Monday afternoon with an “Idol” film crew capturing the fabled “hometown visit” for the finale episode Sunday. “He’s super sweet. You can tell he’s so appreciative of the support he’s receiving,” Romero said.

Hardy walked into the gym overwhelmed and ran around shaking hands. He even came across Dante Scofield, 4, whose dream came true as he got to give Hardy his handmade guitar. Cheerleaders had special cheers written for Hardy and several presentations were made.

Aranda was facing elimination Sunday as the Top 5 was cut to Top 3. He performed Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word,” Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” and his own “Blesser,” displaying a newfound confidence on each.

Still, Aranda isn’t the winner yet — not that not winning would hold him back. That will be determined on Sunday’s live finale, which will incorporate footage shot this week in Pomona and in Claremont, where Aranda used to busk on sidewalks for tips and visit the Folk Music Center.

Aranda came to the folk store Tuesday morning, where he reunited with Harper. I was there and will write about that in a couple of days.

Much of the Pomona concert, like the parade, was dictated by “Idol” handlers. One of the crew, off-camera, exhorted the audience at various points to raise their arms, to cheer, to turn on their phone’s flashlight and wave it. All for good TV moments.

Could American Idols Laine Hardy Lead To A Season 17 Upset?

“I’m trying to play for you all. They’re trying to make a TV show,” Aranda joked. “(Expletive) that.” You won’t see or hear that on TV, I’m sure.

But Aranda was in good humor throughout. And why not? During his song “10 Years,” people sang along during the chorus: “Remember, remember…” Aranda laughed in delight to have thousands of people singing along with a song that isn’t even on a record yet.

The last time through the chorus, he stepped back from the microphone and let the crowd sing the whole thing, as he laughed again.

“Thanks, Pomona,” Aranda said before leaving the stage. “I love you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for being here.”

David Allen, no one’s idol, writes Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Email [email protected], phone 909-483-9339, visit insidesocal.com/davidallen, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.


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