It was the summer of 2015 and start up entrepreneur Fabio Zaffagnini was taking a drive, listening to the Foo Fighters on the radio – and dreaming that they might one day perform in his home city of Cesena, near Florence. To entice such a big act to a city so small, it would take a gesture of gargantuan proportions. And so the Rockin’ 1000 was born – he set about assembling 1,000 musicians in a park for a special one off performance of the Foo Fighters track Learn To Fly.
The biggest rock band in the world made history with millions of YouTube views worldwide, grabbing the attention of the Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl who promised to play for the 1000 in Cesena – and did just that on 3 November the same year.
An expression of Italy’s passion, creativity and artistic skill, this was just the beginning for Rockin’ 1000 which has gone on to establish itself as a musical movement in its own right under Zaffagnini’s guidance. He became the recipient of the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award, which aims to celebrate those who break the mould to create significant impact, and led the 1000 on to play an 18 song concert to an audience of 15,000 at Cesena’s Orogel Stadium in 2016.
This year, the Rockin’ 1000 was back bigger and better still with That’s Live – a full gig featuring special guest Courtney Love of Hole – which took place at the Artemio Franchi football stadium in Florence on 21 July. Bringing together 1454 performers from over 30 countries, the rock orchestra was divided into seven sections comprising 282 drummers, 297 bass players, 401 guitarists, 305 vocalists, 64 horn players, 50 keyboard players and 55 percussionists.
Needless to say that quality of sound was of paramount importance – to give the 13,000-strong audience the best possible experience given the immense size of the ensemble, and to do these passionate artists justice – and so the Rockin’ 1000 team called on international professional audio experts Powersoft and Outline to deliver the audio.
Channelling the craftsmanship that is synonymous with Italian provenance, Powersoft has firmly established itself as the world leader in lightweight, high power, single rack space and energy efficient amplifiers for the professional audio market, partnered here with highly regarded loudspeaker manufacturer Outline. The two specialists liaised an impressive team of professionals in the lead up to and during the show, including Francesco Penolazzi, audio veteran and sound designer for the show, and FOH engineer and system tech Luca Stefani.
Penolazzi and Stefani had to specify the equipment in advance for an event with no precedent, basing their selection purely on experience and acoustic predictions at a very early stage. As Rockin’ 1000 is self-financing, there was a balance to strike between value whilst making no compromises when it came to quality. The team settled on a main Outline PA with 10 stacks (six with six GTO C-12 each and four with five GTO each) and six lines of subs, all in end fire array (four formed by four DBS 18-2 and two made up of four LAB 21 HS).
Meanwhile, Powersoft application engineers Luca Gianni and Thiago Terra were responsible for the rig’s powerhouse. Terra explains: “The PA was powered by 16 Powersoft X8s and the monitor set up (Including ‘foldback’ between conductor Peppe Vessicchio, the stage manager and musicians) by three more Powersoft amps, all connected via Dante and with an analogue backup. The X8s enabled us to monitor the status of the mains supply. With mains feeds coming from various parts of the field, it was important to have a general overview, and the X8s also allowed us to do a little tuning and alignment responding to cues from the team.”
Outline tech support and R&D engineer, Giulio Gandini, expands on the technical approach to this out-of-the-ordinary gig: “The pitch area was huge with all musicians spread across it. The brief from the sound engineers was for the PA to reinforce the sound arriving from the musicians and keep the listening experience as realistic as possible. It was one of those rare cases the usual rules don’t necessarily apply. In this scenario you would generally try to achieve even coverage with as little overlapping as possible between enclosures to ensure identical sound in every seat, but here we had to overlap between the various clusters to deliver realistic sound.”
The Powersoft and Outline teams had to consider carefully the fact that the majority of the PA was aimed at the stadium’s roofed stand, which had different acoustics from the roofless curves. During calibration and fine-tuning, they worked hand-in-hand with the sound engineers to optimise the results, using Powersoft’s intuitive, proprietary Armonía software, which controlled the Powersoft amplifiers.
The epic concert – played by almost 1500 musicians including famous artists such as Italian guitarist Cesareo and bass player Lorenzo Jovanotti – began with a Bach prelude re-arranged by conductor Peppe Vessicchio before celebrating rock classics by the Rolling Stones, Deep Purple. AC/DC, The Ramones, Oasis, Nirvana, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against The Machine, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and more. In addition, Courtney Love stepped up as Rockin’ 1000’s first guest artist and performed three of Hole’s greatest hits.