Evan Johns & The H-bombs – Twist & Shout (Bethesda, MD)
Evan Johns received the kind of homecoming normally reserved for astronauts, Super Bowl champions and Bob Dole. A teenage Virginia rabble rouser who cut his teeth in the D.C. bar scene under the tutelage of the late Danny Gatton, Johns has spent the last 14 years in Austin, sopping up some Texan flavor. But, he says before loping to the stage in his brand new red Chucks, “D.C. is home.” And the crowd goes wild.
Made up of an assortment of skate rats, aging Lindy-hoppers, and members of local punk band Date Bait, Johns’ audience is as varied as his music. Backed by the rockin’ and reelin’ H-Bombs, he runs the gamut of Southwestern swamp, blues and country, and sock-hop shimmies. “Oh No No” and “Sugar Cookie” are a surfabilly ride through B-movies, Jerry Lee’s suitcase and Chuck Berry’s restroom. A trashy and twangy version of “Taking Care Of My Home” highlights Johns’ crusty, hangdog way of singing.
Whatever he plays during his two-hour-plus set, it’s an audience all-time favorite. “Do the Dootz” (a nickname for his brother) sets off fireworks with its dirty roadhouse rock ‘n’ roll. “Madhouse” has him trading off smoking guitar licks with longtime Bomber Dave Chappel.
During an interview before the show, Johns says, “If you hear me play something that sounds familiar, it’s probably something that somebody else should have written.” Songs like the Animals-tinged “Saving Grace” and “If I Had My Way” feel as if Johns has digested the classics, chewed ’em up, and spit ’em out as his own.
Evan Johns is clearly back in his element. His playing is both loose and polished, sentimental and mental; he’s clearly having the hog-wild time of his life. Inviting Jay Jenc (frontman of opener Jumpin’ Jupiter) to sing lead on “Rollin’ Through the Night”, Johns quips, “Next time I’ll be sure to practice.”