LoveLoud Festival• May 14, 2022• Vivint Arena
Reviewed and Photographed by Josilyn Wakkuri Lybbert
Dan Reynolds’ LoveLoud Festival returned to Salt Lake City this weekend, on May 14th, for the first time since 2019. This year, the festival took place at Vivint Arena. The festival had a great lineup with the event’s founder Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons, Neon Trees, Anitta, WILLOW, and David Archuletta – just to name a few! LoveLoud is a festival that focuses on celebrating, accepting, and encouraging the LGBTQ+ community in Utah, especially the youth, was hosted by Kalen Allen.
A red carpet kicked off the day’s events for LoveLoud. Photographers and various media outlets stood by waiting for performers and an array of other special guests to hit the carpet. The red carpet was beautifully adorned with a rainbow balloon arch over the LoveLoud Festival backdrop! London Lazerzon of @londonlaz on TikTok, The Black Menaces of @blackmenaces on TikTok, and Lamar Dawson, the radio host for TikTok Radio on SiriusXM, were among those ready to interview those who would be walking the red carpet. Nearly all of the festival’s performers and speakers attended the pre-show red carpet event. With the exception of Annitta and Willow, and The Aces, who were on the lineup for the festival, but ended up with COVID.
Other special guests such as Lisa Barlow and family of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake, model, and photographer Maxwell Poth, executive director of Equality Utah Troy Williams, Utah Senate candidate Becky Edwards, Utah Senator Daniel Thatcher, Brazilian Economist Gil Do Vigor, Amy Redford, Gabe Adams-Wheatley, and Nikki Walker, among others! Those in attendance were happy to pose for photos and speak to those giving interviews. My favorite interview I saw take place was London Lazerson’s interview with David Archuleta. He asked David what his favorite soda was. When David responded that he didn’t drink soda, London replied, “Are you sure it isn’t Crush?” as a joke referencing David’s hit song, “Crush.” The response made David buckle over laughing!
Following the red carpet, I took to the concourse to look around. Attendees were piling in, as the doors had just opened. Event volunteers were passing out special bracelets that would later light up in sync and create a glowing ambiance for the show! There were many charities that had booths set up, large merchandise stands, and concessions. Golden Healer Service Dogs had a booth set up. They even had multiple service dogs on-site and walking around, which was a big hit!
As I entered the arena just before showtime, attendance seemed sparse. I was initially a little concerned because I knew that there was another music festival and other events going on in the area that day. Those could’ve pulled away from the number of crowd members. But those who were there right at the get go were visibly happy to be there and ready for the show to get started!
Storyboards & Jakk Fynn
Kalen Allen took the stage around 4:30 pm to get the show going. He said that the last time he was in Utah, the airport didn’t look like a mall. And he didn’t have to walk as far as he did this time! He announced the first two acts of the night, which were Storyboards and Jakk Fynn.
Before either of their sets started, a video was played about each of their journeys not only in music but also in their journey in the LGBTQ+ community. Storyboards performed a fun, high-energy three-song set first! Some of her set included catchy originals, “Red Lights,” and, “Don’t Say That You Miss Me”. She ran and danced across the stage for her entire set, clearly having the time of her life! The crowd loved her and had fun right along with her! Jakk Fynn followed with his set that consisted of his songs, “Meow,” which will be released on 5/20. “Take My Heart,” which will likely be released in July, and, “Heal”. His voice was smooth and his songs were fun and easy to listen to! Jakk performed with such passion! He was great at interacting with the crowd, and they were equally interactive with him!
Following their performances, there was a presentation about service dogs by Golden Healer Services dogs. Prior to the festival, there had been entries to win a service dog. The winner’s video played on the screen. She explained that she passes out one to five times every day. Making it so she is unable to be alone. She was brought on stage, crying happy tears for the gift of a service dog that she had been given! The foundation also announced that everyone who entered to win a service dog would get $500 towards one. That really excited the crowd!
The Utah native band, Silver Cup was next up on the concert lineup at LoveLoud! They had traveled from New York to be at the festival. The extremely musically talented siblings, Hadley and Logan, put on a high-energy show! They danced, sang, and played their hearts out on stage! Some of their songs had a chill, relaxed sound. While others were so upbeat making it so everyone wanted to be dancing along with them! I even noticed Kalen Allen on the side of the stage having the best time dancing to their set! One of the songs they played was a brand new single called, “Gaslight”. Which was just released the day before the show! It’s such a fun song. It was apparent that they had a blast singing it, and the crowd enjoyed it just as much!
After Silver Cup, a video featuring Nascar truck driver Devon Rouse played. In the video, Devon told the story about his experience with coming out to family, friends, and fans. He then took the stage. Devon had said we all have struggles. That everyone wants to fit in and worry about what people think of them. He said that that was a huge struggle for him. Especially since there aren’t a lot of LGBTQ+ people in the Nascar community. Devon also said that there was a time when he didn’t want to wake up the next morning, as he struggled with self-acceptance. He said when he did wake up, he knew that it was because God wanted him to still be here. Devon reminded all in attendance that they are loved, have a purpose, and that there are people who are there for them.
Mat and Savanna
Mat and Savanna Shaw were next to take the main stage! Savanna’s hair was adorned with beautiful multi-colored butterfly clips arranged in the color pattern of a rainbow that trailed down her braided ponytail. It was a sweet nod to the purpose of the festival. The local father-daughter duo from Kaysville, UT brought positivity and love through their encouraging performances. They covered songs like, “Gone, Gone, Gone,” by Phillip Phillips, “Something Just Like This,” by Coldplay and The Chainsmokers, and, “You Will Be Found,” from Dear Evan Hansen.
They also sang an original song titled, “Dear Fear”. A Song that Savanna said was written about her struggles with anxiety. The duo’s cheery disposition radiated throughout the arena as they sang. Throughout their entire set, the words, “Share Hope & Spread Joy,” were displayed on the screens behind them.
Lieutenant Governor Henderson came on stage after Mat and Savanna. She came in place of Governor Cox, who was sick with COVID. She let the crowd know that the LGBTQ+ community makes Utah a better place. Lt. Governor Henderson shared that she recognized that there had been, “troubling conversations that have taken place on Utah’s Capitol Hill.”. She continued by saying, “Governor Cox and I have been very concerned about how those conversations have impacted you. We want you to know that your worth is not derived by what people think about you or say about you. Your worth is certainly not determined in the halls of government.”
Following Lt. Governor Henderson’s uplifting remarks, the Encircle Youth Choir joined Parson James on stage for his first song. Their performance was incredibly emotional. The youth singing with him portrayed that they felt every word that they were singing. Parson sang elegantly and strongly. For the rest of his set, the crowd was quiet. Not because they weren’t enjoying themselves, but because they were soaking it all in. They seemed to be in awe of his entire performance.
Another band from Utah, Neon Trees, was the next band to perform! The second they set foot on stage, the energy throughout the crowd kicked up a few notches! The whole band was incredible, but Tyler Glenn really brought the excitement to the stage! His stage presence reminded me a lot of Freddie Mercury from the band Queen. Dan Reynolds later stated as well, calling Tyler a, “Modern-day Freddie Mercury”.
Tyler discussed coming out later in life, and how he had a really difficult time for a while. He said that collaborating with Dan Reynolds and being a board member for the LoveLoud Festival, “healed a lot of angry, sore wounds,” that he had, and that he’s glad there’s a place for people to, “come to celebrate queer people who need a safe place in this state.”. The band played many of their greatest hits like, “Sleeping With A Friend,” “Animal,” and, “Everybody Talks”. The crowd sang a lot of, “Everybody Talks,” on their own which is always a magical sound and experience for both the artist and the crowd! Neon Trees also covered, “Don’t You Want Me,” by The Human League, which the crowd also loved!
By this point in the night, the crowd had grown substantially! Vivint Arena was almost filled! The stage lighting from the first performances was simple. But by the time the Neon Trees performance rolled around, the lights became a show in themselves! I enjoyed watching the crowd go from visibly having a good time, but more on the mellow side, to on their feet, jumping, dancing, and singing from the floor to the side seating, to all the way up to the top seats!
Kalen Allen took the stage again to announce more of the upcoming performances. He expressed his love for the LoveLoud Festival and all it facilitates. He said that it was because of the festival that he felt comfortable to come out.
Former Miss Utah, Rachel Slawson addressed the audience. She is the first Miss USA contestant to openly identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Slawson discussed the struggles she had with trying to find where she fit in because she felt like she no longer fit in her church community, and her family was initially upset by her coming out. She said that she felt like she didn’t know why she was here and what her purpose was. She said that she finally came up with the phrase, “I am why,” and encouraged those in the audience that they should always be themselves, even if they don’t feel like they fit in. My favorite quote from Rachel’s time on stage was, “Jesus said to love everybody, and there was no ‘but’ after that sentence!”
Morgxn took the stage in a brilliantly turquoise suit, and his hair matched perfectly to the suit! His peaceful sounding music had the audience once again enthralled with another beautiful performance. Among his setlist, the crowd seemed to really enjoy the song, “Wonder.” Morgxn also sang his newest release, “Pretend Rainbow.” It was a gorgeous, powerful song that he sang a capella. The lyrics of the song said, “Pretend that there’s a rainbow, Hanging over me, Happy can’t be far now, As far as I can see, Yeah, I want it to be somewhere, Somewhere I believe,” which could take on many meanings, but it seemed especially fitting for the festival’s cause for the inclusivity and acceptance of those in the LGBTQ+ community to enhance their lives and overall happiness and well-being.
Following Morgxn, WILLOW started her performance on the main stage! The crowd was so excited for her! I didn’t know much about her prior to the show, but her musical abilities blew me and the audience away! She has a great voice and even played the electric guitar for some of her set! Throughout the performance, fans would yell, “I love you!” to which she would always respond, “I love you, too!” or, “Thank you!” She finished off her set for the festival with two of her most popular songs, “Meet Me At Our Spot,” and, “Wait a Minute!” Both of those songs have gone viral this year, so the crowd was of course extra excited to hear those!
Before David Archuleta came on stage, a video was playing with various celebrities expressing their support for the festival and the LGBTQ+ community, and David was in that video. A photographer next to me said, “I put that video together three years ago,” and funnily enough, one of the first things David mentioned when he got on stage was the video. He said, “I was in that video. It’s kind of weird to see me there. I had darker hair, and I also hadn’t come to terms with myself yet in that video.” When he said that, the crowd cheered and cheered and David became teary-eyed.
He explained, “It’s still hard to be okay with myself, but this past year has been so beautiful,” he continued, “…to then finally come to peace [with myself], it was so terrifying.” He said, “I want you to know that if you’ve had a hard time feeling support, that you can feel support here from LoveLoud, from me, from everyone here. Know that there’s a place for you.” Because he was recovering from a vocal chord surgery, he said that he could only sing one song. He sang an absolutely beautiful acoustic mashup of, “Glorious,” and Lauren Daigle’s, “You Say.” The audience was mesmerized, and there wasn’t any sign in David’s voice that he was recovering from a vocal chord surgery.
The festival’s founder, Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons, began his set with an emotional speech, conveying the love he has for the LGBTQ+ community and the purpose of the festival. He said, “I don’t know your pain, I don’t pretend to know your pain,” and continued by saying that what he can do is be there for them, and smile and sing. Dan began the musical portion, accompanied only by a piano, with a slow version of one of the Imagine Dragons’ hits, “It’s Time,” followed by another hit, “Believer.”
He was very interactive with the crowd and would step off of the stage to be closer to them, visibly interact with individuals, and even walked into the crowd a couple of times, which they of course loved! Dan is a great performer and can really captivate an audience! He sang a cover of Bob Marley’s, “Three Little Birds,” which he said was unplanned, but it was definitely welcomed!
The next song, “It’s Ok,” was very encouraging. The chorus sang, “It’s okay to not be okay,” which is always a good reminder for all no matter what someone is going through. Dan covered, “Imagine,” by John Lennon. It seemed fitting for the event as it generally talks about inclusiveness and peace for all. Dan then asked the crowd to vote for the last song of the night, and they were given the choice between, “Radioactive,” or, “Demons.” “Demons,” won by a landslide! He put on a great show for a cause so clearly dear to his heart! I was impressed by how clear his voice was for the entirety of the performance!
After Dan Reynolds was done, I was surprised by how the majority of the crowd flooded out of the arena. My husband thought maybe it was one collective bathroom break, but we realized that they never came back. We later heard from multiple people that Dan is usually the last artist of the night, so I’m guessing that’s why a lot of people left early.
Anitta was the final act of the night, and those who stayed were clearly huge fans of hers. They had signs, posters, and there were many Brazilian flags being waved. Her performance started with many background dancers taking the stage, then Anitta herself, and the crowd went wild! She played an eleven song set, featuring some of her bigger hits, “Gata,” which was the first time she performed it live, and, “Envolver.” Anitta had great vocals, and her whole performance was filled with very high energy with a lot of dancing! While talented, her background dancers’ clothing and dance moves were quite risque, which could have also led some to leave early, especially those with children.
I think that the LoveLoud Festival accomplished exactly what Dan Reynolds hoped that it would. People from all backgrounds, ages, and orientations seemed to feel right at home at Vivint Arena on Saturday night. They had the time of their lives, and in other moments, were relaxed and seemed so happy to be there. Each artist and speaker conveyed the love that they had for all, and especially for those belonging to the LGBTQ+ community so that they could know that they are seen, included, and that there is a place for them, when they may not normally feel that way. It was a safe place for people to be who they wanted to be and for others to be reminded to be thoughtful and accepting.