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Live at Rice-Eccles Stadium
Salt Lake City, UT
July 28, 2018
Review by Julie Pavlacka
Photos by Getty Images

LOVELOUD was founded by Imagine Dragons singer, Dan Reynolds, in 2017 to raise money for LGBTQ+ organizations including Encircle, the Tegan and Sara Foundation, and the Trevor Project. On Saturday, July 28th, 2018, the second annual LOVELOUD Festival took place, the festival was was sponsored by AT&T, MGM Resorts, lululemon, Pluralsight, Vivint Smart Home, Qualtrics Experience Management, DOMO, Lyft, and Hilton. The LOVELOUD foundations goal was to raise $1 million dollars in order to support LGBTQ+ youth communities; on stage Reynolds announced that the festival exceeded its goal.


The festival took place at the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium and featured activists from many different backgrounds that have fought throughout their lives to make positive change. The festival was “designed to ignite the vital conversation about what it means to unconditionally love, understand, accept, and support LGBTQ+ youth in our communities".


When I arrived at the festival, it was about 105º F, and if you were trying to watch the performances there was absolutely no shade. Because of this, many of the guests had not arrived yet or were using that time to check out booths, buy Dip n’ Dots, and hang out in the shade near the vendors. However, there were a couple thousand fans who endured the sweltering heat to give support Vagabon, A.W., Parson James and VINCINT. Around 5pm, more bodies started to spill into the arena to watch Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees.


Tyler Glenn went on stage and discussed how he came out as gay in 2014 and how he struggled with not being accepted in his Mormon community. He lifted up the crowd by saying “no one deserves to feel like they don’t belong in their body”. His words reflected the overwhelming love and acceptance that filled the arena.


14-year-old Grace VanderWaal commanded the stage with her energetic, dance moves. VanderWaal’s stage was decorated with beautiful flowers, some of which were used as a headpiece, these seemed to attract some bees one of which stung her! She performed through the incident and played the song that got her to where she is today “I Don’t Know My Name”. She also introduced us to the winner of AT&T’s Turn Up The Love #LOVELOUDcontest, IMANI, who came on stage to perform her song “Freedom”; she rocked the stage with her beautiful and powerful voice, and the crowd roared in support.


Utah’s Lt.Governor, Spencer Cox, was next to show his support to the LGBT+ community. He explained that as a kid he was bullied and often thought the world would be better without him. He talked about how important it is for anyone that has those thoughts to have an outlet that gives professional support and introduced the Safe UT app. He also gave a statement that the Governor declared June 27, 2018, LOVELOUD Day.


Next on the stage was Alfonso Riberio, you may know him as Carlton, from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He even blessed us with The Carlton after speaking from the heart, he said “equality is what brings us together in this life - love who you want to love”.


Linkin Park’s, Mike Schvota, performed and talked about how crazy the last year of his life has been. After the lost of Linkin Park vocalist, Chester Bennington, Schvota was overwhelmed with grief, and explained how he’s been “trying to get past [the suicide of his friend and bandmate]”. He gave tribute to Chester by having the crowd sing the hit song “In the End” and performed a lot of solo music that he’s been working on.


Next Tegan, of Tegan and Sara, got on stage and shared a video. She exclaimed, “representation matters, visibility matters”, because when you see people like you, that are going through the same things as you, you know you are not alone. She brought Dan Reynolds out on stage and he told the crowd that growing up “he was a mormon kid” and “Tegan and Sara was his first introduction to queer artists”, and that seeing them changed his perspective.


After that, Mary Lambert got on stage and performed beautifully. She played “Jesse’s Girl” by Rick Springfield which he announced was “meant to be a gay song”.


While most performers and artists told stories, gave advice, and shared inspirational quotes, Olympic Skier Gus Kenworthy dug a little bit deeper. He shared the terrifying statistics that fuel the need for festivals and foundations to raise money for LGBTQ+ youth. He stated that LGBTQ+ youth are nearly 6x more likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth and that 40% of transgender youth commit or attempt suicide. He explained “it’s scary in the closet - it’s isolating”. These statistics are proof that we, as a society, need to be more accepting of those around us.


After Kenworthy talked, Zedd came out and performed a DJ set. I’ve never really understood the hype behind DJ’s but the crowd was really into it and he brought a new kind of energy to the stadium.


Then WRABEL performed. He sang a song called “Love” and began to cry on stage. The LOVELOUD Festival certainly emitted an overwhelming feeling of acceptance that brought out strong emotions from both performers and fans.


After a couple more performances, including a dance about inclusivity with Julianne Hough, and  group performance of “This Is Me” from the greatest showman by Ash and Encircle, the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, too, the stage to talk about being a “Proud gay American”. He had a message for every LGBT person to hear and believe, he said “you are a gift to the world, a unique and special, gift just the way you are, your life matters”. And then introduced Imagine Dragons to the stage.


Imagine Dragons opened with “Radioactive” and the entire stadium lit up with blinking bracelets that were synced to the song. In the middle of the set, Dan Reynolds exclaimed “I don’t want to hear anymore stories about LGBTQ youth killing themselves - we have to change our culture”. So how do we change our culture? Readers, when you see someone struggling, reach out and talk to them, show your support, and show your acceptance. If you see someone being bullied, or abused, stand up for them and let them know that you are ally and that you’re not going to let anything happen to them.


If you weren’t able to make it out to LOVELOUD this year, try to come out next year. It was a blast.

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