Cassie Castro quietly sits across the table from me. In the five minutes of our luncheon at Ichiumi, not much has been said. It doesn’t help that this is our first time meeting, so I’m unsure of how to start a conversation, but Castro beats me to the punch.
“Is it hot in here or is it just me?” Castro asks.
Her round cheeks are completely flushed. Without waiting for me to answer, Castro decides to remove her oversize grey knit cardigan, revealing a sapphire blue t-shirt with a large graphic image of Super Junior, a popular South Korean boy band. As Castro ties up her dark-brown wavy hair into a ponytail, she catches me staring at her shirt and shyly covers the image with both of her hands.
Castro is currently in New York City to attend SM Town Live, a six-hour long concert that includes performances by some of South Korea's top artists. Organized by SM Entertainment, one of South Korea’s largest entertainment companies, this year marks the third SM Town Live tour, but the first that includes a North American stop. With the high possibility that this may be the first and only chance Castro will get to see Super Junior with many of the members having already left to serve their mandatory military service, the sold-out Korean pop concert is an opportunity Castro could not pass up.
"Ever since I started listening to [Super Junior] and learning about them individually, I found out that they are the hardest working artists," Castro said. "They impacted me by looking at the positive side of things."
Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Castro was always an avid pop listener. From Backstreet Boys to NSYNC, Britney Spears to Christina Aguilera, Castro enjoyed listening to the cheesy, romantic lyrics. But as the dominance of boy bands began to fade, so did Castro’s interest with pop music.
After moving to El Paso, Texas, Castro began listening to indie music. With the help of her older brother, he introduced her to The Strokes and The White Stripes, and on her own, would discover the sounds of Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, and The xx. But, the indie artists were not completely doing it for her.
“I really like indie and rock music, but it just does not excite me the way pop music does,” Castro said.
It was not until this past summer that Castro was able to feel that excitement once again.
While watching a Spanish music video countdown one Sunday morning, a 13-member boy band caught her attention. Aside from the unbelievably large number of members, Castro was more so surprised by the fact that a South Korean boy band beat out Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Belinda for the number one spot. After listening to the catchy electronic pop tune and watching their creative dance moves, Castro was able to understand why and Super Junior became Castro’s latest obsession.
As a result, Castro did not hesitate to spend over $1,000 on a ticket, airfare, and hotel to attend the SM Town Live. While people may think Castro is crazy for what she is doing, she begs to differ.
“I know that a lot of people will say it’s childish of me to still be listening to boy bands at my age, but is it any different from someone spending the same amount of money to go see Radiohead or Madonna?” Castro asked.
As the luncheon comes to an end, Castro puts her cardigan back on and with the unexpected New York City cold weather, she has no choice but button up her cardigan and having to cover up her Super Junior t-shirt. But, in a few hours, Castro will be able to reveal it again.
As we make our way out of the restaurant, Castro says one last thing to me. "People just have different interests.”
With that, Castro and I part ways.