Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect a recent change in the LoveLoud Festival lineup. DJ Martin Garrix will not be attending Saturday's festival.
SALT LAKE CITY — One of the biggest challenges in putting on a music festival is nailing down the lineup: Not only do organizers have to put on the kind of festival that attracts big-name performers but they also have to make sure schedules match up. And while Imagine Dragons' Dan Reynolds has encountered his share of problems while organizing the LoveLoud Festival, it does help that he's a world-famous musician. In fact, to hear Reynolds tell it, finding musicians for this month's festival was, at times, as simple as chatting with friends.
"(Kesha) talked to me about LoveLoud, and how she thought it was really rad. And I said, 'Do you want to be a part of it next year?' And she said, 'Absolutely,'" Reynolds told the Deseret News in a recent phone interview. "That's kind of how that came together. … K. Flay reached out and said, 'Hey, I really want to play.' … So, sometimes there's these little wonderful miracles of somebody contacting us and saying, 'Hey, we want to be a part of this.'"
Now in its third year, the AT&T sponsored LoveLoud Festival, which takes place Saturday at West Valley City's USANA Amphitheatre, just keeps bringing in headliners. For Reynolds, having these big name acts helps LoveLoud achieve its mission of celebrating LGBTQ youth and raising awareness for teen suicide.
Along with Kesha and K. Flay, this year will feature pop duo Tegan and Sara, rock bands PVRIS and AJR, singers Daya and Laura Jane Grace, and Reynolds himself — minus the rest of his co-Imagine Dragons.
If this seems like a disparate group of performers, that was by design.
"This is really the first year that we've gotten the chance to diversify," said Reynolds, the festival's founder. "… We obviously want LoveLoud to be as big as possible. We want the LGBTQ youth to feel special and celebrated. But on top of that, we also want this to be a really diverse lineup, and to have a lot of visibility, and a lot of LGBTQ representation."
In addition to the musicians, YouTuber Kalen Allen will host the festival, which will also feature remarks from activist Emma Gonzalez, musician Tyler Glenn and folks with direct ties to Utah, such as pianist Paul Cardall and Brigham Young University graduate Matt Easton, who made headlines when he came out publicly as gay during his graduation speech. There will also be a performance by Charlie Bird, the former BYU mascot “Cosmo" who publicly came out as gay in the Deseret News in February of this year.
This mixture of national figures and Utah-known names is in line with Reynolds' and co-organizer Tegan Quin's, of Tegan and Sara, aspiration for LoveLoud: To keep it a Utah-centered festival dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ youth in the state and bring attention to Utah's high teen suicide rates, but also to take the festival's message beyond Utah's borders.
"We want to become a model that other festivals can use — not just LGBTQ festivals — but this idea that we can create a model that we can share with people," Quin said in a phone interview with the Deseret News. "We're really committed to making sure that everybody that comes (to LoveLoud) has a great time and leaves really happy about the entertainment and the experience while they're there."
According to festival organizers, last year's LoveLoud concert played to a sold-out crowd at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and also reached an additional 7.2 million people via livestream, a service that will be available again for this year's festival on AT&T's Twitter page. Both Quin and Reynolds see the growing interest in LoveLoud as a direct result of the festival's message — even if they were surprised by the amount of people who tuned on for the livestream.
"I think it blew all of our minds, what a reach that (the livestream) had and how many people were interested," Quin said. "But I think it speaks to how many people in this country care about LGBTQ views and how many people care about this message. And I think it just kind of lit a fire under all of us, that, actually, this is really, really important work."
In addition to the festival, the LoveLoud Foundation works to distribute the proceeds from the event to local and national organizations dedicated to helping LGBTQ youth and suicide prevention, including local groups Encircle, Mormons Building Bridges and Equality Utah, and national groups including the Tegan and Sara Foundation, the Trevor Project and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
"We absolutely do everything in our power to maximize the money that we bring in," Reynolds said. "And to distribute it to people who we really feel are aligned with LoveLoud. We got a ton of submissions for grants this year for local charities, and we really are trying to turn a lot of the money, both locally and nationally, to charities that are doing incredible work. We put a lot of time and effort into that and trying to be as effective as possible."
LoveLoud is an ambitious festival with an ambitious mission — "There's nothing like it," Quin said — but as the event draws near and organizers hurry to get ready for the crowds, Reynolds hopes that those who attend the festival remember to look beyond the entertainers and know that this event is for them.
"LoveLoud (is) much bigger than Imagine Dragons, much bigger than any artists," he said. "It's a feeling; it's a community coming together and rallying together to change statistics, and that takes everybody."
If you go …
What: LoveLoud Festival Powered by AT&T
When: Saturday, June 29, 2:30 p.m.
Where: USANA Amphitheatre, 5150 Upper Ridge Ridge, West Valley City
How much: $29-$149