LOVELOUD, created in 2017, is Utah’s biggest pride concert. The lead singer of Imagine Dragons, Dan Reynolds, is the founder of LOVELOUD. Reynolds and Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees co-hosted the festival this year. Together they sought to bring a message of unconditional love.
The first LOVELOUD Festival was held at Utah Valley University at the Brent Brown Ballpark with 17,000 in attendance. Since then, LOVELOUD has expanded to Salt Lake City, Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas.
At the 2023 festival, LGBTQ+ organizations set up tables for others to learn about what they do and why support is needed. Most organizations were focused on mental health. The reason mental health was such a big part of this festival was due to alarming statistics from the Trevor Project, which found that 50% of LGBTQ+ Utahns have seriously considered suicide, with 17% of them attempting it.
Creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth is what Reynolds wanted, especially in a state like Utah where 68.6% of Utah contains members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Some of the performers at the festival are both LDS and LGBTQ+, such as Tyler Glenn and David Archuleta. They shared stories of hope, making it known that it is possible to be both.
Rather than slandering the LDS church for their unacceptance, Reynolds and Glenn invited the audience to sing a primary song with them, titled “I’ll Walk With You,” creating a truly emotional moment when the stadium lit up and everyone’s voices joined together. They wanted their crowd to know that in a world where you are expected to choose one or the other, it is okay to choose both. Happy endings are in the works for everyone, unconditionally.
Afterwards, Reynolds sang to the crowd an acoustic version of “It’s Time” and “Believer” from Imagine Dragons. The crowd knew every word by heart, and Reynolds would pause to listen to them sing. Tears were shed as the whole crowd screamed the line from “It’s Time,” “I’m never changing who I am.”
In between each act the screen would light up with QR codes to donate and support LGBTQ+ organizations local to Utah. It would show videos of people being happy, celebrating themselves and others. It felt like everyone knew each other and was part of one big family, rather than individual people trying to make themselves feel better about their identities. The consistent feeling of safety was what made the festival special, offering respite from the prejudices those part of the LGBTQ+ community often face in the outside world.
It was a shame that the moment had to end. Nobody will ever find a community so accepting and loving. It was a celebration of humanity, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or anything else. The LOVELOUD Festival was an experience that everyone deserves to have. It is no doubt worth the time and money to participate in this momentous event when the festival returns. It exceeded expectations for a concert meant to support and teach unconditional love to all. For participants, there was one message that stuck: You are loved.
More information about LOVELOUD can be found at loveloudfest.com. LGBTQ+ organizations can be found on the same site under the “Foundation” column. 24/7 LGBTQ+ crisis support can be found at the Trevor Project’s website, thetrevorproject.org.