“This is weird,” Scarypoolparty, aka Alejandro Aranda, said to the crowd Friday night as he took the stage, acoustic guitar in hand, in the parking lot of the City National Grove of Anaheim.
It was impossible to miss his freshly dyed blue hair. It was also impossible to miss the “weirdness” — he was performing a Drive-In OC concert in a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has brought live entertainment to a standstill. Almost six months into the shutdown, it felt strange to be enjoying something like a concert again.
The show celebrated the release of Scarypoolparty’s new EP, “Doom Hologram,” but before the party began, there were the logistics of a drive-in show to negotiate.
Arrivals at the Grove made multiple stops before making it to their parking spots. First, there was a car search to make sure no outside food or beverages made their way onto the lot, then a ticket scan and another stop to be escorted to your parking spot. Attendees were not confined to their cars for the show; instead, there was enough space between each vehicle for everyone to have their own space. Some brought chairs, and others sat on the roof and trunk to get a better view. The super-fans in the very front got together for one big dance party. Concessions could be ordered for delivery to your car, and there was a VIP area to the left of the stage offering complimentary snacks and beverages to a lucky few.
Aranda, the “American Idol” 17th-season runner-up, opened the night with a soulful acoustic set before his band joined him on stage. Aranda’s story has inspired many: From his humble beginnings as a dishwasher from Pomona to selling out two national headlining tours to making his national TV debut on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” Aranda hasn’t let his fame go to his head. He was gracious to his fans and deeply appreciated this unique opportunity to perform.
His acoustic set showcased the softer side of Scarypoolparty with songs like “Out Loud” and “10 Years.” His fingers flew naturally on the guitar, as he showcased his intricate playing, to the delight of the crowd. Some songs made their live debut, which made the performance more special.
As he swapped out his acoustic guitar, he chatted up the fans. “It’s a weird time and we’re all going through it,” he said. “I just wanna thank you all for respecting each other and hearing me play some music.
“I put out an EP today … Thanks so much for listening to it. I used to play in bars in front of friends, whoever took the time to listen. It meant a lot then, and truly means a lot now, so thank you.”
His solo set featured a new song without a title, which could have been “I’m Falling Down” considering how many times that phrase was sung in the chorus. He finished his solo time with the unreleased song “Poison.”
The second set consisted of the full band with Aranda center stage, on keys. It showcased Scarypoolparty’s heavier sound, with glimpses of classical licks from Aranda’s key playing. It was almost eyeroll-worthy when Aranda ripped through fast-paced arpeggios and scales on the keys. You wondered, “Is there anything this guy can’t do musically?”
Songs off the “Doom Hologram” EP brought to mind nu-metal and heavy alt-rock artists like Deftones and Muse. Having two drummers manning twin kits on stage added to the weight. Some songs like “Beneath The Skin” were very drum-and-bass influenced, with fast-paced drumming that set the crowd in motion.
Aranda took the time to address the crowd before certain songs like “Paradox,” when he went on a brief rant: “The world is ruled by money. You don’t need money, you need each other. … If you worship money, don’t come around me.”
Included was the instrumental “Underworld,” which Aranda described as “very chill, very vibey,” and during the roaring “Vampire Shade,” one of the drummers stood on his bass drum and crashed the symbols, inciting more cheering from the fans. Aranda picked up his acoustic guitar again for “Fake Smiles,” another new song off “Doom Hologram.” The stage lights were dimmed so that there were only blue lights and smoke coming through with the LED rain backdrop. It was the dreamiest song of the set.
“Y’all tired out? I think someone left,” Aranda said jokingly. He left his fans with some inspiring words: “You’re worth it. … Push yourself to get better. …. Run toward the light,” he said before Scarypoolparty closed their set with “Tunnel of Love.”
Photos by Matt Cowan