Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons Shows the LGBTQ+ Community Again The Power of Ally Love.
This year, I was the man on the ground working the press pit for Instinct and freelancing for Loveloud Festival 2019 at the USANA Amphitheater in West Valley City, Utah. It was THE busiest gig of the year for me as I was running between two stages, backstage, and looking for something to drink in the dessert sun. Here are some highlights of the festival, sone shots, videos, and a few notes about the performers, speakers, and rising stars.
This year, attendees were greeted with a “Get your pronouns button here” booth. So, I got mine saying “HE, HIM, HIS… DUDE”, and they were accommodating to everyone else, restrooms as well. Asking everyone if they used the one for all gender identities facilities to be respectful of everyone else using the same space.
I arrived and noticed Laura Jane Grace during sound check and asked her from the pit if she would be playing anything from the days of “Teenage Anarchist” or even the more recent “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” album that she did after transitioning. She kept saying “Sorry man, Different band.” Having been into her work since “I was a teenage anarchist” in her previous band Against Me (that’s because I was a teenage anarchist, and still am an anarchist actually). When I was backstage in between interviews and sets, I was able to get a photo with her. She tore it up for sure, this was the first time some old school punk was representing at Loveloud, hopefully more punk in coming years.
Every few minutes, Kalen Allen showed up on the main stage, or on the screen, and captivated us all as a one-man cheerleading team. He could make a marble statue of one of the ancient stoic philosophers laugh.
We had a chance to sit down with K.Flay.
PVRIS had little to say, just had to deliver the sounds.
DAYA came out and rocked the house as well.
Tegan and Sara bantered with each-other, and the fans in the front row, even getting a marriage proposal, and having to turn it down.
Tegan and SaraTegan and Sara
I missed the tail end of the Tegan and Sara set to interview Ty Herndon. He has been featured by Instinct before, and I got the opportunity for a quick video interview. He is incredibly polite, charming, and all-around kind. He is the first openly gay country singer, and as such, works hard to walk the fine line. He will hopefully be followed by many other artists ready to accept and be open up about their sexuality. He charmed my wife’s socks off and is a real gentleman, a great LGBTQ ambassador to the Country Western listeners. The off-camera conversations I had with him and his guitarist were enough to make anyone proud to have him say “I am a member of the LGBTQ community,” you just have to get into this guy. (That’s coming from me, who is the most virulent critic of country musicians). He had written and performed a song called “You’re some kind of wonderful”. It will bring tears to your eyes when you hear it.
The day was gifted by some wonderful speakers giving some powerful messages. One such person was Matt Easton. A few months ago, the BYU Political Class valedictorian publicly came out as gay during his commencement speech. Easton shared with the LOVELOUD audience about how it changed his world being about to come out, and accept who he was, and acknowledge the challenges of maintaining his faith, and his self-integrity (he is such a geeky dorky guy, you wanna just hug him).
Before Easton left the stage, he was told someone had a message for him. On the big screen, there was Pete Buttigieg, the man who inspired Matt Easton to come out. Buttigieg told him how HE was inspired by Easton’s story, wished him well, and said he hoped to see him on the campaign trail. Easton cried and jumped up and down in joyous hysterics, learning that his personal hero even knew his name. It was a great moment to watch, I promise.
Another side note, AJR are one of the most insanely entertaining bands to ever perform.
Changing the future, one voice at a time.
I have two women in my life of whom I have undying respect for. One is named MILCK, she is a singer who wrote the song “Quiet,” about refusing to be silent after a sexual assault or harassment. The song was performed at the Trump Inauguration and has become one of the most powerful protest songs ever written. Milck has given voice, and this song became the unofficial anthem of the #metoo movement. Her song is echoed in flash-mobs across the planet, and deservedly so, it has taken on a life of its own. I have become friends with Milck and photographed her show in the last several months.
Another great woman, barely a teenager is Savannah Skyler. She’s the young Mormon girl who stood in front of her congregation and told them all that she was gay, she was born that way, and that God loved her. She was interrupted and asked to step down. The video of this went viral, millions of views on YouTube, and it even reached Ellen. She is a great kid and is the Utah Representative to the Human Rights Campaign. She has already announced that she will run for president, and the tough little Scottish girl she is, I am sure she will. I love and adore Savannah, and her family (Her mom is a kick too, I promise).
MILCK (2nd from left) and Savannah Skyler (3rd from left)
While backstage, Tyler Glenn says “hi,” Dan Reynolds strolls past and gives a high five and gives thumbs up, and then a few minutes later, I saw a woman who looked incredibly familiar. I thought it was MILCK, but was not positive, and was thinking of walking up and just getting a closer look. She took off her sunglasses, and LOW AND BEHOLD!!! I walked over and took off my sunglasses, we made eye contact and she yelled “JEREMY!!!” we were both surprised to see each other, hugged, and talked for a while. A few minutes later Savannah and her mother walked up and gave me hugs. At this moment, I was standing with my wife, Savannah, her mother, and MILCK!!! Four of the most incredible women I have ever known in my life. I introduced them all and had to take a photograph.
This photograph is historical, monumental, and will one day be in American History Text Books. Savannah Skylar meets MILCK, I have never been so honored to stand with that kind of greatness. I am still humbled by the moment this photograph captured.
As the speakers and side stage artists played, the one that stands out the most is Miya Folick, I was beyond surprised with her live performance, just her and a guitar. PLEASE follow up and give her a listen.
Troy Williams from Equality Utah had made the announcement that the Governor of Utah had finally agreed to take on and bring an end to “Conversion Therapy” this last week. The moment was a victory, ending a battle we have been fighting since the ‘80s.
Everyone had been waiting for KE$HA’s performance. The Photos alone should tell the story, she was on stage in ass-less chaps, and dropping f-bombs everywhere. It was noted that she had probably not received the “Family Friendly” memo. The confetti guns fired continually over the crowd and light show hopefully caused some distraction from the younger audience from the otherwise over the top performance.
Utah’s darling son Tyler Glenn who stole the show last year with his “Freddie Mercury” -esque performance. (I told him that and he said “You are too kind, but I’ll take it”), did a rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that was completely unlike anything else we have ever heard from him. Though, even this was not the heaviest moment of the evening. They just kept coming, from Vivek Shraya explaining it was ok to come out as trans this late in life, to Utah’s up and coming “Foreign Figures” lead singer talking about coming out and his own family and friends accepting him, and calling this moment the highpoint of his life so far.
When Dan Reynolds took the stage for the final performance (this year he wore a shirt), he had no band, only his buddy on piano. He sat down on a stool, and just talked for a while, just talking about love and acceptance for everyone. How much love this world needed, telling everyone that their lives are worth living and that each person is precious out there. The whole front row was holding hands, in an almost human chain of friendship and acceptance, all were bathed in a beautiful blue light, and the tears flowed. All of this had a piano playing while he spoke. What seemed like forever, he finally began to sing (appropriately) “It’s Time,” but he was overwhelmed with the voices of the crowd.
The heaviest moment of the whole festival was historical. (First of all, I found out that Dan Reynolds had served an LDS mission in Nebraska, and that is where he first met Tyler Glenn of the Neon Trees). An LDS woman Carolyn Pearson is a historical figure, her husband was destroyed by electroshock conversion therapy in the ‘80s, it failed. He ended up dying of AIDS, and she stayed by his side until the end. She wrote a song called “I Will Walk With You”. Tyler Glenn joined Dan Reynolds on the stage, and together they sang it.
With these words, I choose to end this story.