by Michele Schmidt
There was a youthful buzz at the Long Center early on Friday night, November 10, 2023, in anticipation of LOVELOUD making its way to Austin for the first time. Created in 2017 by lead singer of Imagine Dragons, Dan Reynolds, LOVELOUD seeks to create a safe place to engage in conversations about LGBTQ+ youth. Smiling faces, rainbow flags, sequins, and glamour all filled Dell Hall while event goers checked out the merchandise and community tables set up before the start of the concert. Booths in support of mental health, trans youth, LGBTQ+ groups were visited by young and old crowd members before entering the theater.
LOVELOUD is a unique experience combining live musical performances with storytelling, conversations, and community building in an inclusive environment for all. There was a wide variety of attendees at the concert, but the one thing they all had in common was a sense of joy. As the theater started to fill, you could hear conversations from friends reuniting and fans who were excited to see important parts of their identity represented in the performers.
Hosted by Kalen Allen, the event started off with a performance by local drag queen Vylette Ward. Dancing to J Lo’s “Let’s Get Loud,” she took the stage by force with her entertaining moves and impressive flexibility. The crowd roared as she kept the flare going as she talked with the audience. She said in her 16 years living in Austin, this was her first time performing on this stage.
Next up was VINCINT who sang and danced his heart out. His music mixed emotional ballads with electric vibes, and got everyone on their feet. While talking to the crowd, he decided to jump off the stage and walk through the audience as he sang his next song. Some fans were lucky enough to witness his dance breaks up close and personal! He was given a LGBQT+ flag which he draped around his body when he got back on stage. He shared how personal his music is to his story, and how grateful he is for that means of expression.
Co-founder Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees came on stage next to share his personal journey growing up in the Mormon Church and being a free spirit. He said his mom’s love is what saved him and allowed him to be truthful in who he is. He went on to say, “It has been the joy of a lifetime to bring a message of hope to young queer kids of all different walks, shapes, and experiences.” He wants to, “counter fear and hate with love” in today’s difficult world.
Tyler was then joined by Dan Reynolds who shared that they had been on a two year Mormon mission together in Nebraska many years ago. While he said he didn’t want to take up too much time as a white, heterosexual man with a platform, he did want to spread this message: “You are enough. You are loved. You should never change one single thing about you. You deserve to be celebrated exactly as you are.”
The two sang a song together that they learned in primary at a young age but wanted to reclaim it for the queer community. It was about showing up for people who feel othered and called “I’ll Walk With You.” The refrain was simple and the crowd joined in. The energy in the room was full of hope and love.
Dan stayed on stage to perform two more songs, “It’s Time” and “Believer”. His performance was passionate and he took his time to deliver the lyrics. You could sense the importance he placed in every word he sang. He connected with the audience on a deep level. Some of the older crowd left after he was done and a lot more youth came for the next act.
The biggest crowd draw that night was Chelsea Cutler. Her young fans were bouncing with excitement, singing along to each song, and interacting with her every chance they got. She talked about her girlfriend and that was a moment you saw people in the audience light up. Representation matters. These youth felt seen and understood. A prior contest allowed two fans to join her on stage, and the audience got to witness a proposal. Enthusiastic gasps and cheers were heard and an explosion of applause when the girl said yes! Cutler invited the two young woman to stay on stage during her next song. They danced and celebrated their love with everyone in the theater.
Check out all our photos from the event at Austin 101 Magazine.
LOVELOUD accomplished its mission in Austin. Community was built, a safe place was created, and acceptance was felt by all. As an ally to LGBQT+ youth, they have raised millions of dollars over the years. The proceeds from 2023 will be distributed to The Trevor Project, The Tegan and Sara Foundation, GLAAD and other supportive organizations. Head to https://loveloudfest.com/ to find out more.