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Saturday's LoveLoud Fest continues to push for inclusion of LGBT youth

Friday , July 27, 2018 - 5:15 AM

Special to the Standard-Examiner

Last year, the first LoveLoud Fest drew a crowd of more than 17,000 people to the Brent Brown Ballpark in Orem, generating cheers not only for Imagine Dragons and Neon Trees, but also for calls for more inclusion for LGBTQ+ individuals in Utah and throughout conservative religious communities.

Organized by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds, the festival was created "to help ignite the relevant and vital conversation of what it means to unconditionally love, understand, accept and support LGBTQ+ youth in an effort to keep families together," an official FAQ states.

On Saturday, July 28, the festival returns in a new location — Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City — which has the capacity to more than double last year's attendance.

"It's really just a numbers thing," Reynolds said in a recent phone interview. "We wanted to get as many people in as we possibly could."

The effort was endorsed last year by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the church's continued support is an open question.

"We applaud the LoveLoud Festival for LGBT Youth's aim to bring people together to address teen safety and to express respect and love for all of God's children," the church's statement from 2017 reads. "We join our voice with all who come together to foster a community of inclusion in which no one is mistreated because of who they are or what they believe. We share common beliefs, among them the pricelessness of our youth and the value of families. We earnestly hope this festival and other related efforts can build respectful communication, better understanding, and civility as we all learn from each other."

As for rank-and-file LDS Church members, Reynolds says he has seen a range of responses to LoveLoud.

"I think as far as Mormons' response to it, everyone's different," Reynolds said. "Everybody has their own opinion, everybody feels something different. But in a more general sense, I think that it's been really positive and everybody's been more accepting to it than I think the world knows Utah to be. But with that being said, I also think there's a lot of work to be done."

The lineup Saturday will include Imagine Dragons, Zedd, Mike Shinoda, Grace VanderWaal, Tyler Glenn, Vagabon and A.W., with comedian Cameron Esposito hosting.

Proceeds for the event will go to local and national charities serving LGBTQ+ individuals, including the Tegan and Sara Foundation, which supports LGBTQ women and girls.

"LoveLoud is not a festival looking to be like some Coachella or something where we're trying to make money," Reynolds said. "It's for putting it right back into charities like Tegan and Sara's charity and Encircle and other charities that are actually on the ground doing great work for LGBTQ youth."

The Tegan and Sara Foundation was founded by twin sister musicians Tegan Quin and Sara Quin.

"Dan hit us up on Twitter and asked us if we wanted to be a part of LoveLoud," Tegan said in a phone interview. "Sara and I are on a two-year hiatus right now from music, but after talking to Dan, we ended up talking a few days in a row about LoveLoud. … I had seen the coverage last year, but I didn't necessarily know the origin story of why it was so important to Dan, and once I had heard it out of his own mouth, I was sort of hooked."

She said that part of what made her interested in LoveLoud was its stated goal of generating a conversation about youth suicide.

"Numbers don't lie, and the statistics were telling us a story, and the story was that we needed to have this conversation, not just in Utah, but in this country," she said.

The story of how LoveLoud came to be is the subject of the documentary film "Believer," which follows Reynolds as he prepares last year's event. The film debuted at Sundance in January and is now available on HBO.

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