NEAR NORTH SIDE — Lili Trifilio graduated from attending Chicago music festivals to playing them with her band Beach Bunny, drawing crowds to sing along to pop rock hits like “Oxygen,” “Prom Queen” and “Cloud 9.”
Now, she’s planning her own fest. Beach Bunny will headline Pool Party at the Salt Shed Thursday. The one-day festival features a five-band lineup and additional attractions curated by Trifilio.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” the singer/songwriter said, “and now I have the financial resources and the musical resources to make it happen.”
The Pool Party lineup includes New Zealand band The Beths, Brooklyn’s Charly Bliss and solo artists Squirrel Flower and Elita. Trifilio drew from her year-end playlists of favorite performers to book the festival, and she mentions a personal connection to each one: She was in the crowd for The Beths’ last show at The Salt Shed and recently befriended fellow Chicagoan Squirrel Flower.
After the daunting task of coordinating several touring bands’ schedules with a venue calendar, she’s happy with the inaugural lineup.
“It’s a good blend of slow jams and really hyped jams, which is what I love about music festivals, you’re getting thrown in all these sonic directions one after another,” Trifilio said. Time allowing, she hopes to wrangle all the performers onstage for a group cover.
Beach Bunny began as Trifilio’s solo recording project and grew to a full band playing DIY gigs during her semesters at DePaul University. The power-pop band progressed to international stages when their song “Prom Queen” went viral on then-nascent TikTok in summer 2019. As Trifilio rejects conformist beauty standards in the song (“You should lower your expectations / I’m no quick-curl Barbie,” the message quickly resonated.
Since then, Trifilio, bassist Anthony Vaccaro and drummer Jon Alvarado have released multiple albums and EPs, played major festivals like Lollapalooza and Coachella, and earned tens of millions of streams for infectious poppy confections like “Oxygen,” “Cloud 9” and “Good Girls (Don’t Get Used).”
Many of Trifilio’s songs reflect the emotional volatility of teenage girlhood, and she has met plenty of fans making Beach Bunny their first concert. But Trifilio says audiences at her shows include teens, parents and “indie bros” alike, all moving with the music.
“Beach Bunny shows are carefree, hyped, lots of energy moving, a show where standing still is not encouraged and moving totally is. Even though the Beach Bunny sound is power pop, girlie vibes, in the show we’re going for that intensity,” she said. “It’s a little silly, but I do think people should expect a lot of group activity.”
Inspired by the carnival rides at Riot Fest, Pool Party will include a carousel, dunk tank and carnival games. The outdoor festival will also include art vendors, flash tattoos and food trucks, including vegan options. It’s been a significant undertaking for Trifilio and her management team. “I feel like I’m planning a wedding, genuinely. We need food, we need decorations,” she said. “That’s been a huge learning curve, but I really enjoy it.”
Even when she’s not performing, Trifilio regularly attends Lollapalooza and neighborhood fests like Wicker Park Fest and Logan Square Arts Fest, so she’s proud to start her own festival in a city with a strong community of musicians and music fans. “People really know how to party all summer long here,” she said. “It’s fun contributing to the midwest scene that sometimes gets forgotten when the music industry’s very focused on L.A. and New York.”
Trifilio hopes to bring Pool Party back next year and expand to more bands. Right now, she’s excited to play a hometown show untethered to a particular album or tour. “I’m just gonna enjoy everything,” she said. “I’m gonna enjoy all the bands, I’m probably gonna mosh, I’m gonna get dunked in the dunk tank and then I’m gonna walk up and rock out.”
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