After an enormously accomplished set from the gifted blues guitar talent ‘Chantel McGregor’, and a solid and evermore professional set from the satisfyingly traditional rockers ‘Medicine Hat’, the good folk in the main tent at the Cambridge Rock Fest were in for even more of a treat when Twickenham’s very own ‘Four Wheel Drive’ came to the stage. Four Wheel Drive [4WD] were there to play sensational, sizzling, old-fashioned rock n ‘roll. These guys are genuine, living and breathing gods of rock (in the making). I really mean it. Think of AC/DC mixed with the Rolling Stones to get the idea. Jamie Lailey is the quintessential lanky-lad lead vocalist and bass man. He strides around the stage like a preying mantis. It seems as though Jamie’s voice has been laced with so much good-time liquor and misty molasses that it now rasps and creaks like a bar-room door and soars like an Appalachian eagle. Ben Austwick and Paddy Achtelick are both frizzy mop-haired sherbet-fountains of sinewy muscle and artistic dexterity. Both on guitars, they play duelling lead breaks and layers of chords, in a roistering flaming display of guitar-based jugglery and chicanery. And smiling Will Richards pounds the drums with an overwhelming and crucial energy. The whole effect is like having a box of fire-crackers going off, all at once, in your under-shreddies. It is amazing, exciting, hot, dangerous and, needless to say, fun. This band drives you mad with joy.
But what catapults this band from simple neighbourhood rockers to the high altar of rock is the electric potential and undeniable sheer kinetic energy of their live performance. For example, by the second song of their Cambridge set, it appeared that something was wrong with Jamie’s bass. He was having difficulty holding the guitar upright whilst he screamed out those tense vocals. It seemed that, in a moment of sheer abandon and unbridled excitement, coupled with incredible energy, (and this was just the second song, remember) he had managed to rip the strap right out of the body of his instrument. This meant a retreat back-stage to get the thing re-fixed. But this unexpected snag did not prevent the band from playing on, it did not even slow them down… Oh no, the remaining trio smashed right on with some joyously overplayed songs and generously pumped up choruses- without the guidance of their lead singer and bass player.
But soon Jamie was back on the main stage, to whoops of delight from the crowd, his voice still as smudgy as the morning mist, and his errant bass now strapped reliably to his gangly shoulders. This band plays rock and roll as if it never went away. ‘White Lines’ is pure thrusting, jerking ‘Bon Scott’ era AC/DC, whilst ‘High Roller’ is given a startling punch-bowl of energy from Will on drums. At times the growling bass is as heavy as a wheelbarrow of expectant hippos. At other times, the tunes are grittier than half a yard of gravel shoved up your exhaust pipe. At all times you feel like the songs go in. They go in all the way – up to the hilt. They are inflated and then delivered in style. This is coltish, rogering, rollicking music and it is not for the faint of heart.
So the Cambridge Festival revellers were treated to a rockin’ set, as vivid as a paint-ball bazooka blast, from this urgent and madcap band. The sincere talent and relaxed brilliance of 4WD meant that not a second was wasted, nor a moment missed. This was like an attack on a roller-coaster. It was dizzying and gravity defying. Anxious and unstoppable. A hedonistic playhouse of fun.
And as the crowd were reluctantly leaving the tent I heard one woman say, “We have seen very few bands this weekend that were as energetic and as fresh as that. It really was exciting.” And so it was.