Echo Special Feature: NCT DREAM prepares for LA headliner show

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Contributed by SM Entertainment

K-pop sensation NCT DREAM embarked on their first headlining world tour, which includes seven dates in the United States. The group consisting of members MARK, RENJUN, JENO, HAECHAN, JAEMIN, CHENLE and JISUNG, have a show at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Tuesday, April 18.

Mikayla Galaviz, Features Editor

The Echo had the opportunity to interview NCT DREAM on Sunday, April 9 in a virtual student-journalist roundtable for their upcoming Los Angeles concert. Group member names were requested by Rogers & Cowen PMK to be stylized in all caps wherever possible. 

K-pop group sensation NCT DREAM has been preparing for their first United States headlining tour, which includes a stop at the Honda Center on Tuesday, April 18. The Anaheim show is one of seven stops on “THE DREAM SHOW2: In A DREAM Tour” featuring stops in Newark, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and Seattle.

The NCT entertainment sub-group, formed of members MARK, RENJUN, JENO, HAECHAN, JAEMIN, CHENLE and JISUNG, participated in a virtual roundtable Q&A session with student journalists from the U.S. 

“We’re now beginning to really see the world and to travel all over the world to see our fans and so this first tour really means a lot so we really had to prepare very strong performance-wise and just, our mindset-wise to make sure that we can show the world our capabilities and what we are striving for,” MARK said in the virtual roundtable.

NCT DREAM holds over 5 million listeners on Spotify, 12 million followers on Instagram and 9.7 followers on Twitter, along with a ‘triple-million seller’ status since their debut in 2016, with their first album “Hot Sauce” receiving the Best Album title at the 31st Seoul Music Awards.

While this isn’t the first time NCT DREAM has performed in California, as they recently performed at KCON LA in 2022, the group said they feel their eight years together have given them the history and reasons for why they are doing a world tour now.

“For NCT DREAM, what sets us apart is our history and the story that we created since our debut,” RENJUN said in the virtual roundtable. “Every K-pop group has a different color but for NCT DREAM it’s really the hope that we are trying to share and give to the youth, the story that we have and the fun that we are able to share through our music as well.”

MARK said he is looking forward to arriving in Los Angeles and is excited about animal-style fries at In n’ Out Burger. Additionally, JAEMIN said he was looking forward to visiting Six Flags.

“We’re very much looking forward to seeing the passion of all of the fans in L.A. as well,” RENJUN said. 

California Lutheran University’s community has recently formed a K-pop club with a few members planning on attending the Anaheim concert.

“What I love about K-pop, in general, is how every show is a show, from the costumes to the choreography to everything that’s on the stage, there’s so much that goes into it and for me, I was a dancer and a performer and so I value all of the effort that goes into putting on a show,” adjunct professor of multimedia Kayla Peralta said in a phone interview.  

In preparation for the concert, senior Eleanor Chan said in a Zoom interview that she is excited to see the group perform “My First and Last,” a song she first listened to in 2017.

“I was like ‘Oh my god they’re like little boys, they haven’t even hit puberty’ and now they’re full-blown adults and they’re going to be performing that song that they performed when they were like 14 to 17 years old, so I’m really looking forward to that,” Chan said.

Meanwhile, K-pop Club president, sophomore Kylie Kwak, said in a Zoom interview she feels like the 2019 song ‘BOOM’ represents the turning point of when the group was no longer a “cutesy” concept.

“I feel like I’ve kind of grown up with them,” Kwak, who has been a fan of the group since 2019, said. “I started listening to them when I was in high school and I’m around the same age as they are now and it’s kind of interesting to see how their music has matured, as they have matured as well.”

According to a press release from Rogers & Cowan PMK, the music released by NCT DREAM reflects the band’s message of youth, adolescence and growth. All of the group members’ ages currently range from 21 to 23 years old.

“We wanted to be a symbol of healing to our listeners and to be a beacon of hope to everyone that sees us and that supports us and especially for people that were young like us, young dreamers,” MARK said.

In its original concept, NCT members would “graduate” from the group once they reached a certain age, with MARK being the only member to do so at the end of 2018.  By 2020, he would return after the graduation system was abolished and the K-pop group would remain fixed moving forward.

Administrative Assistant to the Deans JoSan Petersen said in an email interview that MARK’s career journey with NCT DREAM has paralleled her own. Petersen said that after receiving her associate’s degree, she got married and had children but would not return to school for over 10 years.

“I wound up returning to earn my bachelor’s degree at Cal Lutheran and felt so welcomed, that I stayed. Much like Mark Lee. It feels like home, where I belong,” Petersen said.

Petersen said that she attributes her dream to graduate to a Teen Vogue article that features MARK, saying she did not need to rush it.

“Dreams and goals can take many forms, and I want to continue to learn and do art,” Petersen said. “Also, just like Mark, even though I’m over 50, I’m still growing and I’m happy to say, “Hello Future.”

We wanted to be a symbol of healing to our listeners and to be a beacon of hope to everyone that sees us and that supports us and especially for people that were young like us, young dreamers.

— MARK

Meanwhile, Peralta said she felt that she needed to hide her love for K-pop because she knew no one at her age who enjoyed it until she realized there is really no difference between being a sports fan versus a K-pop fan.

“You can be a fan at any age and I really like that especially NCT DREAM is, you know, their message is about being youthful and energetic and still finding joy in your life no matter where you are,” Peralta said. “I think is exactly the message that people should have in their lives and be a fan if they love it and not be afraid of that.”

During the roundtable, RENJUN recalled a story of a fan who listened to “Hello Future” before undergoing surgery to help find peace and strength.

When I heard this story I was very touched and it just made everything that we worked on feel much more meaningful,” RENJUN said.

First-year Eden Chun said she was so happy when she found out NCT DREAM reached out to The Echo, that she cried.

“I think it’s really important that they do,” Chun said. “We’re all around the same age and I feel like it gives them more humanity since they are K-pop idols and they’re super famous. People forget that they are humans, they make them more relatable.” 

Kwak said that she feels honored and seen when hearing that the group reached out to college students despite their fame status.

“It’s really nice that they’re able to send out that message to young adults like ourselves because it makes it so that we resonate with them more,” Kwak said. “They see us as human beings as well and we can see them as human beings as well and not just like something untouchable.” 

During the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, Chan said that some of her favorite memories relating to NCT DREAM were the group’s live-streamed concerts that she would attend with her friends who, at the time, were in other countries.

“Everything was so chaotic but NCT Dream was my constant because I never knew what else was coming up but I knew that NCT DREAM would provide me with content that would make me happy,” Chan said. 

Chan made sure to pass the love she had to every friend she has made, saying they have a fun, familial presence. Her roommate, junior Alyssa Pulido-Pierce, was introduced to the group because of Chan, and the two have grown closer since.

“Every time we listen to NCT DREAM we’re just sitting here,” said Pulido-Pierce in a Zoom interview, pointing to the living room couch behind her. “It’s like bonding time that’s what it is, spending time talking to each other learning stuff about JENO and MARK or literally anything.”

Before the round-table session ended, MARK left student journalists with one last message before preparing for their Atlanta concert.

“Don’t forget that you guys are still so young like if you guys go on the road and feel like ‘Ah this isn’t for me’, you still have time to do something else,” MARK said. “You got this, let the youth prevail!”

This article was updated at 11:10 p.m. on April 19 to correct NCT DREAM’s reference as a ‘sub-group’ rather than a ‘sub-unit.’ We regret this error.