At Utah’s LoveLoud 2023, acceptance and community ring loud

The Utah-born event, on a tour to two other cities this year, came back for its fifth iteration at The Delta Center.

At this year’s LoveLoud Festival — the annual concert celebration for LGBTQ youth in the state of Utah — personal stories drove the night.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tyler Glenn performs at Loveloud at the Delta Center, on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023.

Well-known Utah musicians, including Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees, David Archuleta and Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons, were on the bill Friday night — alongside alt-pop singer Lauv, indie-rock band Mother Mother and indie-pop duo Tegan and Sara.

Previously, Glenn told The Salt Lake Tribune, LoveLoud’s mission and purpose is “to share the message of acceptance, affirmation and love for queer youths.”

That’s what artists like Archuleta did. He took to the stage in a sparkly white shirt and dazzled with high energy and killer vocals — along with slick dance moves. He pointed out his family in the crowd, especially his mother, who was decked in pride gear. He performed both high energy and softer songs — like “Afraid to Love” and “Up.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) David Archuleta performs at Loveloud at the Delta Center, on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023.

Archuleta got emotional while talking about his family learning to become allies, about how it took his mom time to learn, and encouraged people to be patient with those doing the same.

On coming out, Archuleta told the crowd, “It’s not always the easiest journey, especially when we come from a background of faith ... when you just finally have the courage to say, you know what, ‘Maybe this is who I am no matter how much I try, and no matter how hard, how long I try to change that, maybe I just have to embrace and learn how to love who I am.’”

A lyric change on his famous track “Crush” from “girl” to “boy” — “When we’re hangin’, spendin’ time boy” caused the crowd to burst into cheers. His cover of India.Arie’s “I Am Light” was breathtaking and showcased his vocal range.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tyler Glenn sings a song with Dan Reynolds, at Loveloud at the Delta Center, on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dan Reynolds performs at Loveloud at the Delta Center, on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023.

Glenn’s performance was earnest, especially when he sang his track “Devil,” which has lyrics such as: “I found myself when I lost my faith.” Glenn and Reynolds performed one song together, before Reynolds, whose children were right in front of the stage, performed only two songs on his own — “It’s Time” and “Believer.”

Reynolds told all the kids in the crowd that they are “perfect” as they are.

Aside from the musical acts, other Utah allies and representatives were present at the event too, including Amy Redford and Ms. Meredith, a drag queen based out of Provo.

Meredith grew up in Provo and as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The LoveLoud performance, she said, would be the first time her family sees her in any drag.

“It’s the first time that they’re gonna see it and so for this event to happen, just alone for them to be able to come see me and hear me speak and hear my story,” Meredith said, “That, I hope, is gonna have a really lasting effect.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ms. Meredith performs at Loveloud at the Delta Center, on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023.

She added that she was excited to see drag representation at LoveLoud, given what has happened in Utah this year. Utah has seen threats to an all-ages drag show and a drag story time event, and legal battles over another drag show.

“I’m excited for people to see that tonight and to just kind of get proximity in what drag actually is, because anybody who sees it will fall in love with it immediately,” she said. “It’s really important for all of us to have proximity with people who are different than us.”

She opened her set with a video showing her talking about her experience of coming into her identity and with a cover of “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga.

“My journey began at Brigham Young University, fresh from a mission,” Meredith told the crowd. She said she had to come to terms with the fact that “my queer identity wasn’t going anywhere, no matter how hard I tried to deny it.”

“One night, I went to a drag queen show and it changed my life forever. For the first time ever, I felt completely safe to be the person I kept hidden for so long,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be a part of the community that had given me such a sense of belonging, so that I in turn, could do the same for others.

Meredith asked the crowd to suspend any judgment, something she said is asked commonly at drag shows, and to focus on their feelings at the show. She said she hoped that everyone, despite perspectives or affiliations, could agree on one truth: “Everyone deserves to be loved and respected for exactly who they are.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Fans cheer as Mother Mother performs at Loveloud at the Delta Center, on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023.

“Do you,” she advised queer youth. “There’s going to be people in your life, whether that’s friends, family, society, who are going to think that your existence is up for controversy, and it’s not. Because you exist and you’re beautiful, and you just simply existing is the greatest gift anyone could ever have in the world.”

In the crowd, people danced, embraced and sang along. Many attendees wore white LoveLoud shirts with rainbow lettering. On the back, they read, “Uniting the world through music since 2017.”

This year marks the first time LoveLoud has gone outside of Utah. It visited Washington D.C. ahead of Salt Lake City and will continue to its final tour stop in Austin, Texas, next week with pop performers Cavetown, Chelsea Cutler and Vincint topping the bill.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tegan & Sara perform at Loveloud at the Delta Center, on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023.