LoveLoud is a music festival put on by Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons in Utah for the all-out support of members of the LGBTQ+ community. Utah has some of the highest teenage suicide rates in the nation. Without a doubt, LGBTQ+ teens are at higher risk of suicide than their straight peers. And being an LGBTQ+ teen in Utah is unfathomably challenging. LoveLoud is Dan’s response to LGBTQ+ teenage suicide in Utah.
The most predominant cultural force in the state is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — better known as the Mormon church. Like most conservative Christian religions these days, the Mormon church has struggled with the rise of the LGBTQ+ community on the national stage. Mormons, in particular, have not had a good track record of being LGBTQ+ friendly.
While the Mormon institutional winds may be changing in Salt Lake, culture is slow to follow. Dan’s mission with LoveLoud is to prevent LGBTQ+ teenage suicide by throwing a festival that loves so loudly that cultural hearts are changed and allies are created. Recently Dan Reynolds’ released a documentary in partnership with HBO titled Believer. In our review, we noticed that Dan said many times that LoveLoud is not about changing or blaming religion — it is about transforming culture to be more accepting, compassionate, and loving.
LoveLoud in Review
Kevin: Okay guys so, let’s start out with our first impressions. What did you think about the festival?
Madison: Honestly, I loved it. I had such a good time. Mike Shinoda basically summed up my general impression of LoveLoud during his set. He said, “I’ve played at a lot of festivals, but this festival means something.” LoveLoud is about a community of people who have quite a few differences and reasons to not like each other, coming together and learning to embrace those who live a lifestyle very different from our own. So, I’ll echo Mike’s voice — this festival is important because it means something.
Kevin: I agree that the goal of the festival was definitely accomplished. Dan Reynolds’ idea of throwing a big festival to just foster good feelings is so groundbreaking. At first, I felt a lot of tension in the air. There was this awkward feeling watching very flamboyant members of the LGBT community stand next to conservative Mormons. But, the awkwardness had almost completely vanished by the time Zedd played his set. It was amazing. I think it should be replicated with any and every group who feels animosity towards each other.
Stephen: As a photographer, when I first arrived, I was taken back by how little the people who ran the show knew about the details of the photo pit and other media related queries. But the music was well done and the focus of the festival was a little different for everyone who attended and performed.
Kevin: Yeah, this festival wasn’t well organized. The staff didn’t understand what was going on. Just finding the press check-in was difficult. But, then they had some big names in music and even bigger names in the LGBT community. When Tim Cook gave his presentation, I was floored. I didn’t realize he was going to be there and I’m impressed they pulled it off.
Madison: It should also be mentioned that this is only the second LoveLoud festival to ever happen. In 2017 it was a festival run and organized by Dan and a small team of musicians — not event professionals. And I would guess that they want to keep a degree of creative control over the festival. It is a fait accompli to draw 17,000+ people plus huge names in both the Utah and LGBTQ+ community with only two festivals. LoveLoud can only snowball from here by maturing and drawing in a much larger community of people. I can’t wait to see what LoveLoud 2020 or 2023 is gonna look like.
Kevin: I agree with you in terms of understanding the flaws of LoveLoud in terms of good organization and looking forward to growth. I felt like the purpose of LoveLoud had gone far beyond a dispute between Mormons and the LGBT community. I feel like it now also encompasses acceptance of the LGBT community by all of society and addressing the general problem of teen suicide. I think two important figures in expanding that scope were Mike Shinoda and Tim Cook. Shinoda was there to address the problems of teen suicide. Tim Cook and others talked about the potential financial success of the LGBT community and the importance of them believing that they could accomplish great things despite societies perception of them.
Stephen: These are all things I hadn’t thought about. Thinking about the distant future as far as this festival is concerned. How much bigger does it get? Will they spread to different cities like they have their focus? All very thought-provoking questions. What else will they advocate?
Madison: Those are the questions I know Dan is being asked right now. One of the primary criticisms of Dan Reynolds and LoveLoud is that it is a festival put on by straight white privileged men. And in a lot of ways, it could become a platform for straight people to pat themselves on the back for being allies. Dan recently tweeted about the future of the festival. So it is obvious LoveLoud is still in its infancy. But the important thing for everyone to know about the festival is that at its core, LoveLoud is a beautiful thing. Yes, it has growing pains but everything does. And these growing pains will translate to a better and more representative festival in the future. But, for a festival like this to take place in Utah is an unprecedented success. What do you guys think?
Kevin: I agree that it was a beautiful festival and honestly it exceeded my expectations. But, I feel like it has some problems that could develop into serious issues if they don’t address them now. Specifically, I’m a little concerned that the growing scope could get out of control. Right now, I think the scope of what is being accomplished is great. But, if it gets too big then the festival isn’t really addressing anything. My second concern is that some of the artists who performed didn’t seem to get behind the movement. I feel like Grace Vanderwaal and Zedd didn’t seem to have skin in the game. Vanderwaal didn’t mention any support for the purpose and Zedd didn’t really say much at all. I hope the festival doesn’t get filled with artists who are just there to perform like it’s any other concert.
Stephen: That’s something I noticed as well, many of the artists were passionate and excited about the movement whereas others cared very little about saying anything. I am hopeful about this festival becoming better. Dan has been such an awesome leader in this, it will be interesting to see who takes this to the next level and whether or not they will lead it like he has.
Madison: Ok, now how would you rate the performances themselves? My two favorite with Mike Shinoda and Imagine Dragons. I’ve never seen Shinoda perform. He is an incredibly cheerful guy and I did not expect that. He was grinning ear-to-ear the entire time he was on stage. And to have in your mind that Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, Shinoda’s friend, and bandmate, had committed suicide within the last 6 months gave his performance just that much more emotion. He had the fans sing Chester’s parts in a few songs and boy I swear I got a little teary. Then Imagine Dragons to finish out was amazing. As raw performers, they are some of the best I know.
Kevin: I agree with everything you said. My stepdad recently passed away and I felt like Mike Shinoda’s music helped me to grieve. I was really touched and was full on crying for most of his performance. And Dan Reynolds made me want to love other people. He was so passionate. I felt like he was a Martin Luther King Jr type who found a peaceful way to make others see each other as brothers and sisters.
Madison: Although, Martin Luther King Jr was an insider with the Black community. Dan is considerably an outsider to the LGBTQ+ community which harkens back to some of the criticism above. However, I don’t think that disqualifies him from having a voice. It takes a community to change. And I know Dan is very active in youth outreach centers. He is on the ground wrestling with these thorny community issues, which is more than most can say.
Kevin: Yeah, I guess he is more comparable to Will Campbell. Final thoughts?
Madison: My final thoughts are — I can’t wait to see where LoveLoud goes from here. Will it stay in Utah? Which LGBTQ+ artists could perform? How large will this get? Will there be multiple LoveLoud festivals in different locations each year? I can see this going so many ways. But one thing is for sure — this is where a community begins to heal. It’ll take a while, but when the history books will be written, I think LoveLoud will be marked as a turning point.
Kevin: I would just say to all of those who are worried that LoveLoud is bad or hateful to the LDS Church that that is not the case. It’s a great festival and will help those who attend to feel more loving to others.