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Rockin’1000: The ultimate big band

Over 13,000 fans supported the first concert by the world’s largest rock band

That’s Live, a concert by the world’s largest rock band, Rockin’1000, was recently staged at the Orogel Stadium Dino Manuzzi in Cesena, the Italian city that hosted the July 2015 recording of the original viral video appeal by 1,000 musicians to the Foo Fighters to come and play there – which they did.

More than a thousand musicians (250 drummers, 250 guitarists, 250 bassists, 250 singers, keyboard players, violinists and pipers), conducted by Marco Sabiu – who arrived at his podium on a motorbike – played to an ecstatic crowd of over 13,000.

Pro-audio veteran Francesco Penolazzi, the event’s sound designer and audio chief, explains: “The project, one of the most complicated I’ve designed, had to take into consideration microphone placement for sound reinforcement for the stadium crowd, and for recording a documentary DVD of the band with a frontline of about 100 metres!”

Prase Media Technologies (PMT) was the event’s technical sponsor and collaborated with Roadie Music Service for the supply of over 170 hard-wired Shure microphones, Clair Bros loudspeaker systems and Lab.gruppen power amps.

Penolazzi continues: “Thanks to the top-notch audio team, including Alfonso Barbiero (responsible for cable runs) and my team from Cesena (Fabio Clementi, Mirco Mazzoni, Andrea Brighi and Stefano Martini) we had no technical problems and were ready for any emergency. Finding all the necessary gear at a very busy team of year and with a limited budget was no easy task, but thanks to the perfect understanding of the sponsors, the result was impeccable.”

As well as the Shure mics, there were 20 Sennheiser ME104 for the strings, and seven Jecklin (sound-absorbng) disks with 14 Sanken COS-11 red mark omnidirectional mics positioned seven metres above the musicians – all supplied by Paride Prironi’s TD Rent.

Test work prior to the event included the fibre network, five DiGiRacks and a DiGiCo SD7 at the HQ of Amek & Vanis (who recorded the event on 194 tracks with their White Mobile) and cables and mics at TD Rent’s premises. Delta Sound UK supplied 500 channels of IEM were also tested here, as were 700 wireless headphones.

FOH engineer Luca Stefani put the whoe thing together and gave support with fibre and MADI routing on the consoles. The main desk was an SD7 and an SD10 fed all the signals to the PA, IEM, service signals and the system for the musicians.

Penolazzi continues: “With Emanuele Luongo of PMT we established the characteristics of the PA including stack positions. Luongo then simulated the design and optimised it according to my requests, with Clair Bros PA man Josh Sadd and Mauro Laficara of Roadie Music Service (RMS), then tweaked the rig to ensure even coverage around the venue.”

The Clair PA comprised eight ground stacks of four C15 each, plus two stacks of four i212M strategically positioned round the orchestra, forming a virtual semicircle, to maximize time alignment and maintain an appropriate balance between the band and the PA. For bottom-end punch, four CS218M subwoofers were positioned at each stack.

The Lab.gruppen powerhouse featured 34 PLM20K44, while processing and signal management of the 22 feeds from the FOH mixer was courtesy of Lake. The distribution of the signals for the PA system was via a redundant Dante network, with 22 Extreme Networks switches, interfaced with the Yamaha RMio64-D I/O at FOH.

The wireless mics supplied by Roadie Music Service were also connected to the Dante network and the RF set-up handled by Ivan Omiciuolo (PMT) and Ilaria D’Agostino (RMS), with a Shure AXT600 spectrum manager. For the (all-Shure) set-up, 56 channels of ULX-D system were used to amplify the instruments, including violins and keyboards; for the pipers who played the intro to AC/DC’s It’s A Long Way to the Top, two UR3 transmitters were used with wireless mics on boom stands.

As well as the 1,000 amateurs, well-known pro musicians from several top bands also played. The playlist including classics by Eddie Cochran, Steppenwolf, the Stones, Clash, Nirvana, Patti Smith and Neil Young, and the show ended with – what else? –Learn to Fly, the Foo Fighters track that originally brought the players together last year.

At one point, Fabio Zaffagnini, the project’s general manager, spoke to the crowd on behalf of the band. “They’re just themselves, but they perform like rockstars,” he announced, “showing that with passion, dedication and fucking hard work we can transform our lives. So stick together, no more conflicts… and play rock’n’roll!”

The founders of Rockin’1000 were rightly proud of the result, an incredible experience with fans of all ages on their feet shouting, dancing and singing from start to finish (more than one hardened technician was seen to shed a tear after the truly moving show).

“’That’s Live’ wasn’t just mics, cables, mixers, loudspeakers and lighting,” said Penolazzi later, “it was real emotions and vibrations created by musicians and communicated thanks to a production team working under a scorching sun and for weeks before the event, giving its best. I’m honoured to have been part of that team!”