Behind The Scenes Of Rockin’ 1000’s ‘That’s Live’ With Founder Fabio Zaffagnini

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“Last year, someone said that we made a revolution. But this is the real revolution: people from all over the world came together and are giving us an unforgettable show.” (Fabio Zaffagnini, Rockin’ 1000 Founder & General Manager)

It’s been one year since the Rockin’ 1000 launched their incredible “Learn to Fly” video, requesting the Foo Fighters to perform in Cesena, Italy. Overall, it’s a story that remains one of my favourite to ever happen in rock music. It’s well known Dave Grohl and company emotionally responded to the incredible video, which now has over 32 million views (declared Italy’s most seen video of 2015) and was listed in the “Best of 2015” by both Google and Facebook. The Foo Fighters made their dream come true by playing in Cesena, Italy this past November. Their opening song? “Learn to Fly.”

A little over a week ago, founder Fabio Zaffagnini and the Rockin’ 1000 were at it again with “That’s Live,” the biggest rock band on earth.

Based on the concept of the “Learn to Fly” performance, this was a full concert consisting of 1,200 musicians performing a 17 song set at the Orogel Stadium Dino Manuzzi in Cesena. Almost 14,000 people were in attendance. The President of Emilia-Romagna Region, Stefano Bonaccini and Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi – who followed the event through the social media – also sent their congratulations.

As for the show, the stage entrance of the musicians took more than half an hour alone. Orchestra Director Marco Sabiu then arrived, standing on a motorbike hidden under a boxing robe to a thunderous ovation. The audience was asked to use their smartphones to create choreographies throughout the evening and there was a moment of silence in memory of David Bowie.

Alternative Nation caught up with Zaffagnini as Rockin’ 1000 released the official video of “That’s Live,” to discuss how the past year has been, behind the scenes of how “That’s Live” came together and the lasting impact of what was previously a daydream.

Look what music can do…

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How has the “Learn to Fly” experience impacted your life?

“Learn to Fly” has somehow changed our lives, yes. It has been an incredible media success, and we found ourselves in front of a community of extremely enthusiast musicians. For sure, I am more aware of the potential of crazy ideas and we pushed a little further the concept of “impossible”, which makes me feel a little more confident [in] me, my team and the people who’ve been part of all this.

How has the past year been for you?

Well, it’s been a little weird. Being recognized on the streets; receiving many important awards like the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award; giving many, many talks in Italy and in the US…but most of all, it’s been a year of freaking hard work. We wanted to evolve from last year’s video and prove [to] everybody that Rockin’1000 hasn’t just been a call to the Foo Fighters.

What was the intent behind turning Rockin’ 1000 into a full concert this year?

Last year, many people saw the video but just a few could see the 1,000 musicians live, and all of them would tell you that it’s been just magic. This is why we decided to organize on entire live concert: 17 songs that honor the history of rock, played by 1,200 rockers. We called it “That’s Live” and it happened on Sunday, July 24th. The idea was to see if a group of unknown, passionate musicians (in a stadium and having a kick ass production team) can give a show that generally is given by rock stars. And this is the result: we went sold out with 14,000 people. It was an unforgettable show and a wall of sound that left everybody literally breathless!

Do you still keep in touch with Dave Grohl?

No, I know that he’s really busy – I don’t want to bother him.

What info can you share on the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” performance?

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” was one of the songs in the setlist, when people understood from the intro that we were playing that song, they just started to jump and shout like crazy!

How did you come up with the full set of songs to be played at “That’s Live”?

We wanted to go through the history of rock, from the Fifties until nowadays. Songs had to be generation anthems, not too hard to perform [and] lyrics had to be in accordance to the message that we wanted to spread. The set list was:

Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve
Come Together – The Beatles
Gold on the Ceiling – The Black Keys
Born to be Wild – Steppenwolf
Jumpin’ Jack Flash – Rolling Stones
It’s a Long Way to the Top – AC/DC
C’mon Everybody – Eddie Cochran
Police on my Back – Clash
Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
Blitzkrieg Bop – The Ramones
Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Rebel Rebel – David Bowie
People Have the Power – Patti Smith
Rockin’ in the Free World – Neil Young
Song 2 – Blur
Medley (Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze and Foxy Lady; Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Communication Breakdown and Whole Lotta Love)
Learn to Fly – Foo Fighters

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Whose idea was it to play a full concert?

Well, the idea came quite naturally. After seeing the 1,000 performing live last year, we guessed that an entire concert could be possible and we imagined what would have happened when everything was amplified in a stadium packed with people.

How long did you rehearse/practice for the concert?

Musicians studied at home, and we did three days of rehearsals all together.

Some “That’s Live” quick facts:
400 stage lights / 25 cameras / a 8000 mq stage / 20 km of cables / 3 LED walls / 100 mq of projection / 12 Line Array sound systems / 500 microphones / 1250 headphones / 387 channels on the mixer / 200 recording channels / 700 kw of electricity / 4,800 meals / 500 accreditations including press and staff

“So stick together, no more conflict and play Rock n’ Roll.”

“Rebel Rebel” – Rockin’1000 – That’s Live

Rockin’1000 – That’s Live – Behind the Scenes

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photo’s via rockin’ 1000
edited by dave maxwell

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Jeff is a Senior Writer for Alternative Nation, runs and co-found the Deep Cuts & Green Room columns. Also on Medium at Deep Cuts Publication Contact Jeff: [email protected] – and – @JeffGorra on Twitter