Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds says this year’s LoveLoud will be ‘the best yet’

Music festival that’s “a safe place” for LGBTQ+ teens happens Saturday at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Loveloud Founder Dan Reynolds says a few words to the crowd at the start of the Loveloud Festival in the early afternoon, at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Saturday, July 28, 2018.

Dan Reynolds took a second to look back to the inaugural LoveLoud Festival, and said, “we’ve come a long way from Brent Brown Ballpark.”

It’s been five summers since that Saturday in Orem when the Imagine Dragons frontman launched the first festival to show support and solidarity with LGBTQ+ youth in Utah. Reynolds said in an interview this week that this year’s event, set for this Saturday at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, will be “the best yet.”

Reynolds points to the lineup — a mix of Utah-based and nationally known performers, including The Aces, Neon Trees, Willow, David Archuleta and more — who “sonically [will] make it a great festival.” He also is encouraged by the speakers, including NASCAR driver Devon Rouse and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox.

He’s particularly excited for Anitta, the Brazilian singer and dancer, whom he calls “Queen of South America” — and someone who will add an international element to the festival’s continued evolution.

This year’s festival — the fourth Reynolds has spearheaded, and the first since 2019 (because of the COVID-19 pandemic) — has the “most diverse work” yet in terms of identity, he said. For example: Archuleta came out as LGBTQ last September, three of The Aces’ four members identify as queer, and Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees has been out since 2014.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dan Reynolds talks to the crowd at the beginning of the LoveLoud Festival at the USANA Amphitheater, Saturday, June 29, 2019.

“When we were first planning to do this,” Reynolds said, “we knew that there was a long road ahead of us. But, we were really determined to try to raise a voice and rally around the youth.”

Reynolds, who is straight, credited Glenn as the “reason that all of this happened.” In the 2018 documentary “Believer,” which chronicled the first LoveLoud’s creation, Reynolds said that talking to Glenn, an old friend from their days performing in the Provo club scene, helped him fully grasp the pain and hope Imagine Dragons’ LGBTQ fans wrote about in their letters.

Having the inaugural 2017 LoveLoud at the ballpark on the Utah Valley University campus in Orem was “awesome,” because it was close to Provo and Brigham Young University — where Reynolds, who was raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, went to school.

The festival brought the conversation to the helm of Mormonism, Reynolds said — which he called “miraculous,” and wasn’t done to instigate a fight.

As LoveLoud has evolved, Reynolds said, “it’s far beyond being down the road from LDS anything at this point. Our focus is culture more than anything.”

LoveLoud’s original intent was to create a safe space, a place to be loved, for LGBTQ youth. Reynolds cited the startling statistic that youth in unaccepting homes were eight times more likely to die by suicide, and three times more likely to take part in risky drug use.

“The longer we’ve been around,” Reynolds said, “the more the focus is [on]: An LGBTQ child that is in a home that maybe isn’t safe for them, maybe they’re not accepted at their school, at their church, very potentially in their community, in their orthodox faith, which goes way beyond Mormonism.”

Reynolds noted that there’s still “a lot of headway that needs to happen” in any faith, because we still live in a world where “bigotry, hate, hate crimes, bullying and non-acceptance is just everywhere.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dan Reynolds jumps into the crowd as he performs with Image Dragons at the Loveloud Festival at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Saturday, July 28, 2018.

Reynolds said he’s proud of what he and others have created with LoveLoud, and how far it’s come.

“It’s the safe place for these families to come,” he said. “They desperately need it.”

What makes LoveLoud continue to be special, four years on, is “the people of Utah,” he said.

“The people of Utah are the shining star with LoveLoud,” he says. “[They] just continue to show what it means to really love and accept their LGBTQ youth.”

Utahns, Reynolds said, are often misrepresented as “uber-closed off and conservative” and though that’s true for some — for example, the Utah Legislature’s recent enactment of a law banning transgender girls from school sports — he points out that there’s also an “incredible amount of loving people.”

Looking ahead, Reynolds reiterated his goal to have more LGBTQ voices involved in the event’s planning. “We’ve always wanted LoveLoud to be a foundation that is not just LGBTQ-focused, but LGBTQ-run,” he said.

Reynolds also has a dream list of performers he’d love to see come to Utah for the festival, including Elton John, Sam Smith, Lady Gaga, Halsey and Frank Ocean. Given how much LoveLoud has done in four years, it very well may happen.

“Our goal is to be more efficient every year, to have a louder voice, to reach more people, to make more impact,” he said.

LoveLoud Festival happens Saturday, May 14, starting at 4 p.m., at Vivint Smart Home Arena, 301 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City. Tickets, starting at $25, are available at vivintarena.com. For more information, go to LoveLoudFest.com.

Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.