May the 4th be with you!

Mayday in Oxford is an old tradition; Star Wars Day in Oxford looks set to be a new one, thanks to the Deadbeat Apostles’ second Day of the Deadbeats festival.

The event, at the Isis Farmhouse on Saturday is set to be a lot of fun. In an idyllic setting on the banks of the Thames at Iffley Lock, this historic hostelry has long been one of Oxford’s hidden gems. And over the last two years, under the buccaneering stewardship of Noreen Cullen and Adrian Burns, it has become one of Oxford’s premier music locations. Musicians of some note themselves – fiddle virtuoso Noreen includes all-Ireland violin championship and playing at Sydney Opera House on her CV – the couple has transformed the pub into the perfect venue for everything from intimate jazz sessions to full-on festivals.

Oxford Mail:

Flights of Helios

Mostly living within an athletic stone’s throw of the Isis themselves, local country-soul legends The Deadbeat Apostles kickstarted this mini-revolution with their regular Day of the Deadbeats evenings. These gigs saw the Deadbeats and friends rock a packed house with their patented blend of Harlem Apollo and Grand Ol’ Opry, each night joined by friends and musical guests including Ags Connolly, Great Western Tears and The Shapes, all of whom and more were on the bill for the first Day of the Deadbeats festival last May.

The success of this day-long event set a seal on what has been called the most serendipitous combination of band and environment since Dusty went to Memphis.

Even an unscheduled rainstorm could not dampen proceedings as the cream of Oxford’s musical talent played to a large, appreciative and boisterous crowd until the moon shone bright o’er the meadows. Safe to say good time was had by all.

Oxford Mail:

The Epstein

So roll forward another year and, naturally, the Deadbeats are doing it all again. It’s been a productive and eventful 12 months for The Deadbeat Apostles, starting with the release of their well-received debut album, also titled The Day of the Deadbeats, a packed summer of gigs including headlining the Uncommon Stage at Oxford’s Common People festival, where Nightshift magazine compared their show favourably to The Jacksons on the main stage. Other highlights were appearances at Truck, Riverside and Cogges festivals plus a BBC Introducing feature on the Countryfile Live bill at Blenheim Palace. Over the winter they have produced a must-see video for their current single Bigger Man, as well as continuing their regular Isis nights and playing everywhere around town.

Expect their set on Saturday to be gutsy, raucous and uplifting, with a few standards joining the now familiar original songs.

Oxford is fortunate to play host to a flourishing local scene of innovative, eclectic and diverse talent, and this year’s Day of the Deadbeats festival line-up showcases this to the full.

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With a crowded stage and plenty of loud shirts, the carefree orchestrations of The Oxford Ukuleles Big Band will kick off the afternoon.

The Holy Fools serve up original songs with deep traditional roots and a modern sensibility, drawing on rural music and imagery from the backwoods of Tennessee to the haunted woods of the British Isles.

The two-man army that is Beard of Destiny continue their war against boring songwriting with Gray Barlow’s baritone guitar and unique take on the Chicago Blues perfectly complemented by Ian Campbell’s muscular drumming.

Oxford Mail:

Knights of Mentis

The Flights of Helios provide a trip into weirder territory, folk crossed with space-rock, traditional instruments warped with effects, the results at once thoughtful, provocative and entertaining.

Local busking legend Johnny Hinkes will bring The Prairie Clams to the party with their intoxicating blend of traditional country swing and blues, featuring material from the forties onwards refreshed with imaginative original arrangements.

Adding to the cornucopia of musical delights on offer, The Knights of Mentis bring a nine-piece blend of roots, folk and country that regularly goes down a storm in the Isis bar with exquisite harmonies and a mix of original songs and covers delivered with an inimitable bluegrass-infused swing.

From the wilds of Buckinghamshire, former Deadbeats cohorts The Ragged Charms mix hard driving blues with a promiscuity of influences from punk to bossa nova. Their music is both timeless and contemporary, the extraordinary vocals of Ms Ali Jones inviting comparison with the great blues divas.

Oxford Mail:

The Knights of Mentis

The Long Insiders summon up the spirits of early Elvis, Link Wray and Dick Dale to a noisy party of blistering rockabilly and rock & roll. With a taste for the ghoulish and a touch of voodoo, dark, loud, fun is the order of the day.

Local favourites The Epstein return to grace the evening stage with their well-loved brand of alt-country enhanced with a pop sensibility and innovative arrangements. Their reputation for quality songwriting and melodic playing is well-deserved.

Oxford Mail:

The August List

Rounding off the day will be The August List with a full band performance enriching Kerraleigh and Martin Child’s unique ‘porch-folk’ vision.

Inhabiting a musical land halfway between the Carter Family and the Velvet Underground, their music is rich, complex and hypnotic, yet simultaneously warm and inclusive.

The headline here though is that all of this can be yours for just the £15 ticket fee.

It’s hard to think of a better line-up for the overture to the local festival season. And, as if that wasn’t enough, there will be market stalls, face-painting and sideshows galore with under 12s entering free.

Kicking off at 1pm and set for outta' space – this is the bargain of the millennium. May the fourth be with you.

  • The Day of the Deadbeats is at the Isis Farmhouse, Oxford on Saturday