A neon glow spilled out of the doorway, as did smokers. The gallery’s open-plan layout gave an almost demonic reverb to the music blasting out of the speakers. A mysterious, magnum-infused concoction was served upon entrance (shout out @pinkydrinksldn). Meanwhile, some polish guy in a balaclava shouts “169!” outside the toilets. Reality and fiction tend to intertwine in the presence of Onoe Caponoe.
In many ways, this magical realism strikes to the very heart of ‘Concrete Fantasia’, the third chapter in Onoe’s ‘Tales from the Holy Delix Surf Club’ album series. Launched alongside a series of paintings and graffiti pieces at the Camden Open Air Gallery in London, this was an immersive experience. “These are just stories of my life”, Onoe insists, speaking before the show. Take the track ‘Pinocchio ft. Jehst’ for example, “I remember I was twelve coming out of my house with big eyes and mad shit just kept happening”, ‘shit’ that to him seemed equally as surreal wooden toys coming to life and tea parties with the Mad Hatter. As our conversation progressed, I couldn’t help but see traces of a childlike innocence in the lost cat that skulks through the paint-stained alleyways of his artwork.
At the centre of the maelstrom, the Camden Open Air Gallery emerged as the singularity between these two worlds. Reality became fiction and then back again as Onoe guided listeners through the backstreets of ‘Psychosis City’ and up to the ‘House on the Hill’, navigating ‘Mermaid Lagoon’ and ‘Cat Kingdom’ along the way. Colourful and gritty canvases filled the eyeline and real-life cat wizard toys adorned the merch table; ‘Concrete Fantasia’ soon began to feel like the medical term for my mental state that night.
Psychedelic enough to make walls breathe and tables grow fur, it was almost comical to hear that Onoe was concerned the album was “too normal” for his fanbase. Flash forward to later that evening and Onoe’s unique self-chopped ‘n’ screwed delivery is churning up the crowd like food in a blender or, fittingly, undisclosed spirits in a cocktail. One member of the crowd even busts out a few somersaults. Normal was definitely not a word that came to mind.
Perhaps wide-ranging might be a more appropriate term. Onoe covers as much ground emotionally as he does cosmically on this project and song structures are impressively diverse, from the ethereal ‘Ice King’ to the thunderous ‘The Horsemen’, all while being undeniably 169 throughout. Features, too, from Jehst, Lealani, Polish punk-rap legend Zdechły Osa and Lil B (The Based God) feel worlds apart and in many ways they are, populating each corner of the Onoe Caponoe universe.
Throughout our conversation various heads popped into the small backroom we were sat in, letting Onoe know that a particular person of interest had just turned up or updating him on the load in. Sensing a multitude of spinning plates, I suggested that we begin wrapping up our conversation. “Yeah, we probably should”, Onoe replied and that was it. I never got to ask the symbolism of 169 or Holy Delix, or indeed the money shot: “what’s with all the cats?”. It seemed less important anyway. Reality and fiction had become practically indistinguishable by this point.
‘Concrete Fantasia’ is a whistle-stop tour through Onoe Caponoe’s vibrant dimension, blending reality and fiction, time and space alike. The shuttle departs here at all hours, and safety apparatus can be purchased through this link.