Hugh Garrety, self-styled 'shambling, ruined bass player' of Oxford rabble-rousers Deadbeat Apostles invites us all to tonight's free Day of the Deadbeats extravaganza

Once in a far-off time, when giant herbivorous rock bands roamed the earth, the turning of moon and tide would regularly bring the biggest and fiercest of Oxford’s musical dinosaurs to Isis Farmhouse for the gig known in the annals of legend as the Day of the Deadbeats.

Musicians, acolytes and ne’er-do-wells both human and supernatural would gather at this legendary venue for nights of raucous bacchanalia and superb music, hosted by the Deadbeat Apostles, memorably described as “where the Harlem Apollo meets the Grand Ol Opry”, and featuring a roster of guests it was no exaggeration to call the cream of Oxford’s musical community.

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How different the landscape looks now, eighteen months on from the day the giant asteroid strike of Covid came to lay waste to our world and live music was forced underground into a bunkered parody of its former self.

Now, as Oxford’s musicians emerge blinking and pallid from their windowless home studios, bug-eyed from the dim glow of a thousand laptop zoom meetings and tormented by the wreckage of a hundred cancelled festivals, we can only wonder if those halcyon days can ever be recaptured. To which the riposte swiftly comes – of course they can, this is the Deadbeat Apostles we’re talking about! And the Day of the Deadbeats 14 will take place at the Isis Farmhouse today (August 7). And it’s still free entry for a full night of beautiful music.

Oxford Mail: Deadbeat Apostles. Picture by Jason Warner, Fyrefly Studios

In fact, the Deadbeats have been far from idle during lockdown. Their double A-side single Viva La Evolution and I’m A Man was released last year, accompanied by a splendidly theatrical video, assembled from afar by the band and a cast of thousands and most kindly reviewed in these pages.

This blossomed into the short movie ‘On Record’ where empress of the Deadbeats Michelle Mayes expanded her film-making talents, her consort and co-lead vocalist Mike Ginger expanded his wardrobe and guitarist and all-round tech wizard Garry Richardson expanded his home studio set-up. All of which led to an explosion of new creativity. This year has brought not one but two new Deadbeats’ singles, the hard-rocking The Cuffs Are Off and the frankly discofied Deadbeat Shuffle. Expect the band, completed by shamanic, elfin drummer Alex Ogg, and myself – shambling, ruined bass player Hugh Garrety – to perform all these and other new material on Saturday. No grass growing underfoot here.

And what a pleasure it is for the Deadbeats to be returning to their spiritual home of the Isis Farmhouse for the event, where Adrian Burns and Noreen Cullen, legendary proprietors and undisputed King and Queen of the Isis, have created a premier music venue from slim beginnings and against considerable odds.

With the seamless service of their friendly, good-looking and only occasionally long-suffering staff catering to the food and drink needs of all, Adrian and Noreen are free once again to bring their musical excellence to the party and will be the Deadbeats first guests on the night.

Expect virtuoso guitar and violin-based madness with a jazz edge, although these guys could play heavy metal or dub step and it would doubtless still sound phenomenal.

Oxford Mail: Deadbeat Apostles. Picture by Jason Warner, Fyrefly Studios

Deadbeat Apostles. Picture by Jason Warner, Fyrefly Studios

For their other guests of the night, the Deadbeats are privileged to be welcoming an intoxicating blend of old and new. Gracing the event for the first time will be Emma Hunter, who with partner Tom Bruce creates an evocative soundscape using flamenco guitar, layered loops and complex, harmonious, vocals. In a rare solo show, expect Emma’s haunting melodies to bring the desert plains of Mexican to the banks of old father Thames.

Long-time Day of the Deadbeats devotees will be familiar with the unique stylings of old friends Beard of Destiny. This two-man army of a band have delighted the event with Gray Barlow’s baritone Chicago blues and Ian Campbell’s mighty drumming on more than one occasion and are all the more welcome for that. Expect to scratch your head in wonderment at how so few people can make so much music while fighting off the urge to dance embarrassingly. Or perhaps that’s just me.

So get yourselves along to the Isis Farmhouse at Iffley Lock today to partake of the sweet music of life in the company of the extended Deadbeat Apostles family. Not just a gig, but also an important step in rebuilding civilisation.

  • Day of the Deadbeats 14
  • Isis Farmhouse, Oxford.
  • Tonight (Saturday)