Jim White set to rock in the room where his mum did her homework

We made this little change, we grabbed that and repeated it, says drummer Jim White. And then we decided that we’d found a new beat.

Out of nearly anyone else’s mouth such a claim would be hyperbolic hogwash. But this is Jim White, percussion savant in (among others) Dirty Three, Venom P. Stinger, Springtime and Xylouris White. He’s also been tapped as the Rising festival’s artist in residence.

Raised in Clifton Hill, the wild-haired, frisky-handed musician will be jumping in and out of Ubers and on and off stages across the first two weeks of June as he makes the city march to his idiosyncratic rhythms. First up, he’s rocking the podium in the middle of the State Library’s solemn, sophisticated reading room, with his onomatopoeic Bang Stop show.

White will be joined by long-term collaborator and guitarist Emmett Kelly as The Double, along with choreographer Jo Lloyd. The three, plus a handful of dancers, will open Rising by kicking out the jams where mice fear to squeak.

White chuckles and his face glows with mischief. I can’t believe that we’re playing in there! I like that room, it’s one of the most beautiful rooms in Melbourne. It’s probably one of the most significant. I’m from Melbourne; my mother told me once that she used to do her homework in there – so many books have been written there, y’know?

The Double is a band he and Emmett Kelly came up with a few years ago. They had just made a Bonnie Prince Billy record called The Letting Go, then did a huge, fantastic tour and stayed in touch.

Basically, we both started talking and agreed we wanted to start a bar band, he says.

We got together in this room in Chicago and said ‘Let’s work out what’s going on with rock’n’roll! ’ We did it for three days and we were mucking and, as I said, we found a new beat. It sounds like rock’n’roll but it’s not, it’s in an unusual count. We were quite excited.

White taps the beat out over the phone – incredibly fast, chaotic yet cohesive. We can take any form of music and play it with this rhythm.

The Double started playing live and immediately something happened.

People started dancing to it and we thought ‘shit, this isn’t a bar band’, White says. They headed west and the same thing occurred: crowds cut a rug. We went to LA and every night someone else said ‘Come play here’ and then we went to New York and same thing, ‘Come play on my rooftop’. We didn’t oversell it, it’s just pure.

Everyone dances because we get this trancey, mind-altering aspect to it going; the beat’s called ‘the double’.

Enter Rising co-top dog Gideon Obarzanek, who paired them up with Jo Lloyd, a VCA graduate with Chunky Move on her CV.

White’s festival dance-card is chockers. He has performances with Ed Kuepper; guitarist Marisa Anderson (check out their intuitive, improvised album The Quickening) and old faithful Xylouris White with Cretan laouto player and singer Giorgos Xylouris.

It’s daunting but exciting. It’s always a great moment to play the first run-through with a band after a long break. You get to take the material and let it come in a different way. That’s one aspect of the whole program, getting good at grabbing the moments.

One more thing: there may be a Nutbush element to opening night.

We tried to make a dance [to The Double] like the Twist. We got some dancers and planted them in the audience at one show, but we didn’t really nail it.

It would be great to have a dance called the Double so if any of your readers out there come up with something let us know … or just come along and do it.

Bang Stop, State Library of Victoria, June 1, 7pm. Free.

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