“We need you. We need every one of you,” Reynolds, the event’s founder, told the crowd. “Your life is always worth living, always. There’s cool things that happen. Things get better.”
A video at the event quoted a statistic that LGBTQ youth who feel accepted are seven times less likely to commit suicide.
“The goal is to destigmatize, and in order to destigmatize something, we talk about it, we talk about it, we talk about it. We educate,” Reynolds told the Daily Herald in a red carpet interview before the festival. “I hope that it’s started to penetrate the culture a little bit.”
The singer, accompanied by a pianist, finished the festival with a sincere acoustic set including a few Imagine Dragons hits, an “I’ll Walk With You” duet with Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees and “Stand By Me.”
Reynolds began to cry when he saw a father in the audience whose son, Stockton, committed suicide because he wasn’t accepted in the community. Reynolds’ young daughter quickly took the stage to hug and comfort her father.
“I want everybody in here that is feeling that, that they’re not worth it or they’re less than, it’s not true,” Stockton’s father, George, said after Reynolds invited him and his wife to the stage. “Every one of us has this beautiful light, and just because somebody doesn’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. And Stockton didn’t go in vain. Just remember that. Please remember that.”
Kesha headlined the event, performing an energetic set featuring songs like “Tik Tok,” “Praying” and “Your Love is My Drug.” The singer said LOVELOUD was an important gig for her “because it’s something I feel so strongly about.”
“I just want to encourage everybody here to not only love yourselves, but love the person next to you and love the people around you,” Kesha told the audience. “You do not know what they’re going through. You do not know what they’ve been through.”
Several other acts took the stage throughout the day including Glenn, AJR, Tegan and Sara, Daya, K.Flay, PVRIS, Laura Jane Grace, Paul Cardall, VINCINT, Parson James and former Brigham Young University Cosmo mascot Charlie Bird with former BYU Cougarettes.
Celebrities such as P!nk, Kristin Chenoweth, Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco, Jared Leto of 30 Seconds to Mars and some of Netflix’s “Queer Eye” cast also recorded short video messages that were shown at the festival.
Internet and TV celebrity Kalen Allen told the Daily Herald he felt “amazingly excited” to be the host at LOVELOUD this year.
“These are things, opportunities that I never would have thought I would have been able to have because of my sexuality, and so the fact that I am surpassing anything that I would have ever dreamed of, I just want to be an example to these kids that dreams do come true,” Allen said.
Glenn, a member of the LOVELOUD board, told the Daily Herald he thinks the event has “moved some things and opened some minds.”
“We’re coming at it with love, and so people feel OK to ask questions and explore it,” Glenn said. “I came out as gay in 2014 and personally left the LDS faith a few years ago, and I think from then to now, I’ve seen massive strides in taking down walls, and I think that’s what it’s about.”
Former NFL and BYU quarterback Steve Young and his wife, Barbara Young, told the Daily Herald they think LGBTQ acceptance “has grown incredibly” in the Utah community.
“Between Encircle and LOVELOUD and all the other organizations in town that have been at it much longer, the compassion has grown, and I think that the community has evolved,” Barbara Young said. “It’s really fun now because you’re seeing people who get it and you’re seeing hearts grow and now you get to just enjoy in all the love and acceptance that’s going on.”
“Encircle, since it’s started a couple years ago, they’ve had no suicides of any of the kids that have come to Encircle, so super powerful,” Steve Young added, choking back tears.
Cardall, a Utah pianist, told the Daily Herald LOVELOUD is personal for him.
“I grew up in Salt Lake City. I’ve had a lot of friends deal with depression, some who are openly gay and they’ve taken their lives,” Cardall said. “I had a heart transplant 10 years ago. My organ donor took his life, so I am all about in the music I’ve created for years trying to help people understand their value, how valuable they are and not to give up.”
Bird, who came out as gay publicly earlier this year, told the Daily Herald he is “really grateful” for events like LOVELOUD and anyone who shows “visible love and support” to the LGBTQ community.
“It feels really good to be here,” Bird said. “I love Provo. I loved BYU. No secret that I was the No. 1 fan. But when I was there, there was always this fear of not knowing whether people will accept me or how authentic I could be, and it’s really cool that I’m able to prove to other people that there is support and love and a network there in Provo.”