The song “Prom Queen” went viral on TikTok in 2019 and quickly catapulted the unassuming Chicago band Beach Bunny onto the national music radar. Subsequently invited to play major fests such as Lollapalooza and Coachella, frontwoman Lili Trifilio kept in mind her own ambitions: to jumpstart her own festival here in Chicago.
This year, it’s happening. Trifilio’s fest is called “Pool Party,” and on Thursday, the inaugural, one-day event will take place at one of Chicago’s newest venues, the Salt Shed, in the former Morton Salt Factory. Despite the name, there’s no pool at the Salt Shed — and the fest will take place amid an excessive heat warning in Chicago.
WBEZ Morning Edition Host Mary Dixon spoke to Trifilio on the eve of the event about what inspired her and how organizers plan to take cautionary measures in the heat. The conversation was lightly edited and condensed for publication.
WBEZ: You’ve made two albums while teaching yourself production, and you’ve played major music fests like Lollapalooza and Coachella. What made you think, ‘Hey, I want to organize my own music festival?’
Trufilio: Honestly, we’ve been just playing so many fests over the years, but I figured why not have our own. I have learned a lot from playing all those fests, and we’re finally in a place where financially and realistically we can make it happen. So, it’s been kind of a career-long dream that’s finally happening.
It is going to be smoking hot. What are your plans as an organizer for handling the heat safely?
So we’ve got water refill stations that will be available. There’s going to be a room that can hold about 600 people that is air-conditioned, and security and staff are making sure to keep their eyes out for anyone that looks like they’re about to have heat exhaustion and provide water bottles. We’re also going to get some giant fans. We’re trying to cover all the bases.
But it’s very important that people drink water and make sure they go into the air-conditioned area if they’re feeling faint.
This is going to be a one-day fest. Beach Bunny is the headliner, and the lineup includes The Beths from New Zealand and the local artist Squirrel Flower. They’re all women or female-fronted bands. Was that your intention?
Honestly, originally, I was just trying to select people that I was genuinely fans of. I wanted to make the first fest very special, and it just ended up that I guess I listen to a lot of women artists. So it worked out that way.
When people walk into Pool Party, what else might stand out to them besides who is playing on the stage?
There are a whole lot of other amenities that are gonna be happening. We got some carnival games, a carousel and one of my friends is doing a Beach Bunny flash tattoo, as well as food trucks and art vendors. So it will go beyond the music.
It kind of sounds like a mini county fair.
(Laughs) Yeah, that was kind of the goal.
Near as I can tell, there’s no pool at the Salt Shed. So why did you decide to call it Pool Party?
I was inspired by the name of one of the old EPs that I made. And I thought that Pool Party with Beach Bunny — the alliteration was cute. And it was a unique fest theme I hadn’t heard before.
Chicago has so many summer music festivals. What convinced you the area could support another one?
It’s been a lot of work. I tried to do this a year prior and was told that there wasn’t enough time or resources. So yeah, it’s just kind of been a long-term plan that finally came into fruition and we tried to squeeze it between, you know, not too close to Lollapalooza or not too close to Riot Fest or any of the other major ones.
It sounds like this has been taking up a lot of your time and attention. But I’m wondering what’s next for Beach Bunny? Can we expect some new music soon?
We’re definitely working on a new album. And hopefully that will come out sometime next year. Lots of plans are in the works. We’re kind of taking an off year from touring and mostly just writing this year and focusing on the fest.
You’re a songwriter, and a musician, you tour and you’re working on an album. And now you’re also organizing a music fest, which is a whole different skill set. Can you talk about balancing all these different jobs?
I’ve always had an interest in party planning and event planning. So I’ll say that at least the creative side of that has come pretty naturally. But in terms of balancing the workload, we definitely needed to pull back on playing live shows to kind of make this happen. And yeah, it’s taking priority over other things. But I think ultimately, it’ll be worth it. And then we’ll hop right back into writing.
So you’re following in the footsteps of Perry Farrell and other music fest organizers who are also musicians — it’s sort of that, 2.0.
I’m hoping one day, you know, this fest can be multiple days and have so many more acts. So the goal is definitely to grow it.
If you go: Beach Bunny’s Pool Party is Thursday at Salt Shed, 1357 N. Elston Ave. Doors open at 4 p.m., and the lineup also includes The Beths, Charly Bliss, Squirrel Flower and Elita. Tickets are $45.