Already tired of the same old festive songs, the ringing of sleigh bells and Noddy Holder bellowing “It’s Christmas!”?

How about a dose of whisky-soaked rhythm & blues and spicy New Orleans rhythms? If that already sounds appealing, then add in the prospect of a night at one of Oxford’s most charismatic waterside pubs and you’ve got a Deep South-style alternative Christmas party night to remember.

The gathering is called Santa Goes to Mardi Gras and is a collaboration between Iffley’s bluesy country-rockers The Deadbeat Apostles and Will Banks of Americana promoter Halfway to Seventy-Five.

It takes place tonight at the Isis Farmhouse – the scene of Will’s popular two-day Halfway to Seventy-Five summer festival of American roots music.

“Santa Goes to Mardi Gras is very simply about having a massive party!” says Will.

“Our thinking is, if you combine Christmas, which is a big party, with Mardi Gras, which is another big party, and add in the lunacy that is the Deadbeat Apostles and their live show, you end up with the party to end all parties.

“We’re suggesting people cancel their own Christmas party, because ours will be better, and we really do believe that!”

Headlining are one of the most raucous bands in the city, alongside Papa Nui and the appropriately-named Hinksey Stompers.

Will guarantees no one will be able to sit still.

“Anyone who has seen the Deadbeat Apostles live will know that it’s all about having a good time,” he says. “Theirs is a hi-octane, feel-good, swaggering romp through rock & roll, country and soul.

“Papa Nui have been doing great things on the Oxford scene for ages now, too. I’m really looking forward to their horn-led sound and brilliant rhythms getting the dancefloor moving. They warm up any winter night with their fusion of blues and country, ska and reggae and Americana.”

A less known quantity are the Hinksey Stompers.

“They are a band of crack jazz players we’ve put together exclusively for Santa Goes to Mardi Gras,” says Will. “They will be getting the carnival feel going with a selection of upbeat tunes from the home of the Mardi Gras itself, New Orleans.

“They are a Santa Goes to Mardi Gras exclusive – so you’ll just have to wait and see how good they are!

“In addition to the live music, we’ll be immersing ourselves in Christmas spirit with Halfway to Seventy-Five’s festive jukebox.”

Halfway to Seventy-Five started out as a small, one-day festival at the Isis Farmhouse back in July 2013, and was so named because it marked exactly that point in Will’s life (he was 37 and-a-half years-old).

“We billed it as a festival of Americana, roots and good honest music, and we’ve been true to that original vision ever since,” he says. “Over the six years we’ve been running the festival, we’ve played host to a huge array of brilliant musicians from all over the world and from right here in Oxfordshire – the Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band, Little Brother Eli, Speedbuggy USA, and Ward Thomas to name just a few.”

Oxford Mail:

Last summer’s set by the Deadbeat Apostles was a highpoint, and saw them signed up for this mid-winter carnival.

To those more used to Will’s summer shows, tomorrow’s gathering will be altogether more cosy, with a large heated marquee.

“It’s a brilliant space, with plenty of room for eating, lots of seating and a big dancefloor,” he says. “Christmas is a brilliant excuse for a party, and this gives us a chance to really let our hair down and do something a bit raucous.

And he said the venue, reachable only by foot or bicycle along the towpath (via Iffley village or Donnington Bridge), is the perfect spot. “The pub lives and breathes fun and music,” he says. “It’s a beautiful setting by the river and it’s going to be decked out in a festive mash-up of Christmas and the colours and flavour of Mardi Gras.

“It mightn’t be the easiest to get to, but once you’re there, it’s a place where you can just lose yourself and get on with having a party. The great thing about its owners. Adrian and Noreen, is that they are musicians themselves, so not only are they massively supportive of live music, they have brought a whole vibe to the place.

“I’m absolutely sure that Noreen will have the fiddle out by the end of the night – she’s an absolute demon on the violin!”

So who is the show aimed at? “Anyone who likes good music, good food and a great night out!” he says. “If you want to enjoy some brilliant foot stompin’ music in a winter wonderland, this is for you. If you want a brilliant festive get together with friends and family with Christmas dinner thrown in, this is for you. Or if you want a really good alternative works Christmas do, that beats awkward overpriced prosecco and canapes with the boss, then this is for you!

“And if you are coming for a Christmas party, the team behind the Isis Farmhouse’s very successful Supper Club are offering a delicious four-course meal and we’ll even throw in a drink.

“Our summer festival is one for the family, but this is a bit more grown up. Get a babysitter in and get your glad rags on!”

So do we need to dress up? “It’s Christmas and we love to party!” he laughs. “The music and the venue is all going to be themed around a New Orleans Mardi Gras so all the glitz and glamour of carnival is positively encouraged.

“We want to see feathers, masks, jewels and sequins galore! But the Isis is a pretty laid back venue, an old farmhouse with cosy sofas and open fires – if black tie and sparkles isn’t your thing, then you’ll fit in just as well turning up in a Christmas jumper or festive scarf.”

Just make sure you get to the venue, and back, safely without ending up in the drink.

“The Isis Farmhouse is a pretty special venue,” says Will. “It’s tucked safely away along the river Thames out of the path of city centre revellers, yet it’s only a few minutes’ walk away from a taxi drop off or free parking.

“It’s accessible from Donnington Bridge or you can park in Iffley village and have a romantic walk over the lock and follow the twinkly lights we’re putting up along the river to where the party is happening.”

  • Santa Goes to Mardi Gras is at the Isis Farmhouse, Iffley Lock, tonight. Tickets £10 or £27.50 with dinner and drink on arrival.