K-pop girl group TWICE were caught off-guard by barking at their first-ever stadium tour in the US, last May at the Banc of California Stadium. It wasn’t dogs, but rather their fans.
Collectively known as ONCE, the audience was showing support for the hitmaking women with bark-like chants, which some of the members ultimately joined in a back-and-forth interaction.
While it was new to TWICE last year, in 2023, barking at K-pop concerts in the US is just part of the experience.
Spring and summer 2023 are full of K-pop world tours hitting up American venues, including the return of TWICE to even more stadiums, kicking off the US leg of their fifth world tour on June 10 at SoFi Stadium. And they’re going to be accompanied by that Arsenio Hall-style barking from the crowds.
The barking starts steadily, and then grows among concertgoers, spreading across quadrants of fans until the “hoo! Hoo! Hoo!” resonates through the venue.
If it’s the first night of a concert tour in the US, it’ll probably lead to some confusion, awe, amusement, or excitement, depending on the celebrity, since it’s not an experience K-pop stars meet in any other touring spots.
“Did you guys get trained or something?” asked Suga of BTS during his Agust D solo tour during a night in New York’s UBS Arena at the end of April, and later addressed the experience during a livestream.
“My style,” declared Moonbyul of Mamamoo during a show a few weeks later at the same venue, leading the crowd in the barking.
While K-pop fans have long been known for their unique fan-chants – timing phrases like stars’ names or lyrics between performed verses – barking at K-pop concerts is a relatively new phenomenon among Stateside K-pop fans attending shows.
If you ask around, nobody seems to know why or how barking became a K-pop thing. Some people will say it’s merely natural, an outgrowth of what audiences will do at sports games or hip-hop concerts, a throwback to the ‘90s as nostalgia reigns. Or maybe it’s related to the way barking sometimes appears during gamers’ live streams, a show of support or aggression. Or maybe it’s simply a replacement for fan-chants, which fans must prepare in advance and sometimes fall flat.
Even its origin as a localized K-pop behavior is unclear: Some concertgoers think that it took place for the first time at those TWICE shows in 2022, where member Dahyun thought they were chanting her nickname Dubu, the Korean word for tofu.
“I’ve barked at multiple K-pop concerts, but the first was a TWICE concert,” girl group aficionado Jonny Schneeweiss recalls. “It started as a ‘dubu’ chant for Dahyun, but turned into barking. My assumption was that some people didn’t know ‘dubu’ was her nickname and what we were chanting, or knew the nickname but misheard, and it quickly turned to just standard barking. Once it became that, since it was fun to do, people did it at other concerts. I believe when we did it at Itzy’s Sugarland, Texas concert, the members themselves even mentioned that only American audiences did it.”
But others believe it appeared first during Tomorrow X Together (aka TXT)’s first US showcase tour in 2019, when fans barked along to their song “Cat & Dog.” Others will say no, that barking performed by TXT’s fans, known collectively as MOA, is more of a woof than the more aggressive barking we hear at other shows, and only during that specific song, rather than throughout shows as we now see, continuing throughout the entire concert.
Danielle Henson is an American fan who taught for two years in Seoul, South Korea, where she saw TXT perform on their 2022 Act: Lovesick tour. “During those days leading up to the show, I remember my fellow American friends being excited about the prospect of being able to bark at the show if they played “Cat & Dog”. My non-American friends weren’t too keen on it and apparently, the K-MOAs had no idea that this American canine phenomenon was even a thing. Needless to say, TXT didn’t perform the song at the shows in Seoul, so the barking never happened.”
WE BARKING FOR YEONJUN YES SIR pic.twitter.com/ScYeifiMkn
— jenny⁷🍒★⁵ FESTA¹⁰ (@lovelypjmhobi) May 7, 2023
Henson got to see TXT when they were back in the US during their 2023 tour. “Now, fast forward to this past weekend — it felt like we were in a Humane Society between every song,” she says. “TXT seemed to play into it, but I feel like they have a pretty good excuse to since their song is literally called “Cat & Dog” and features barking. However, during other parts of the show, the barking continued and I was perplexed. I’d never experienced it before because it’s definitely not a thing in Korean concert etiquette.”
Others point to SuperM’s debut showcase at Capitol Records, also in 2019, where the crowd and members of the group alike were heard doing the hoo-hoo-hoo of the barking that’s now become ubiquitous at K-pop shows in the US.
“To be honest, I don’t know who started it,” recalls Jenny P, a fan who attended and has a history of attending K-pop shows in the US since 2016. “I thought maybe it was one of the boys on stage who started it because it was definitely one or two people, who to my ears sounded male – but there were also quite a few men in the audience. I saw a mention on Twitter that it started in the crowd. But I don’t know where or who. To my ears it had a very timid start with one or two people, it fell flat, and then everyone decided to revive it and it got really loud. It was done to fill a dead space while the boys were getting into position before the VCR played. Which is why I thought they were doing some kind of huddle thing that wasn’t intended to be imitated by the crowd. But my guess was probably entirely wrong.
Bianca J. also attended, and has since heard the barking at other concerts.
“It definitely started a murmur after the first round of barking of people’s differing opinions,” she tells UPROXX. “I personally found it really funny and kind of fun to participate in. I will say that the cheers are less formal ‘barking’ and more of an in-between barking and whooping.”
While many enjoy the bark-chants, as they continue, some K-pop fans tell UPROXX they aren’t so sure about it, especially when some K-pop stars have expressed discomfort, especially at instances when the barking isn’t equivalent across the members of a group, turning what at some events is a forthright cheer into a potential catcall.
Opinions are mixed, with fans telling UPROXX that they see both the pros – fun, engaging – and the cons – potentially rude, awkward. A long-time fan of many K-pop acts, Chase, Stream Elements’s PR director who only uses his first name, began attending K-pop shows in the US in 2018, and isn’t into the recent uptick of barking.
“I am not a fan of the barking at shows,” he says. “I attended an ITZY concert and it felt like a very bro/frat party atmosphere. If you wouldn’t do it on the street, then don’t do it at a show. The group seemed to play off it, but it’s difficult to know what a group likes in an industry that is all about pleasing the fans.”
Bianca J., who attended that SuperM showcase, says it is a mixed bag. “In context, I actually really enjoy it. We’re so used to screaming and yelling at concerts that collectively being able to join in on this type of chanting feels less expected, so more exciting. Similar to when everyone in the audience is able to participate in fan chants, and are comfortable doing so, it makes it more of a united feeling in the audience. It’s less about the individual and their biases (people they like in the group) but more of a focus on the experience as a whole. I can definitely see how it could be embarrassing though if someone thought they were actually barking – so I can’t fault those who are embarrassed by those actions.”
For now, the barking is continuing in good fun for most concertgoers, and has the potential to become a K-pop mainstay in the US.
“I think despite it being fun to do, there is still a little bit of awkwardness around it because no one really knows why they’re doing it,” thinks Schneeweiss, who attended TWICE and Itzy’s shows. “But if you and the artists can get past the awkwardness, K-pop barking does capture the different vibe and spirit of international fans. We’re loud, we’re rowdy, we’re full of energy — and we want our favorite idols to feel all that from us when they’re on stage.”