The story of Italy’s Rockin’ 1000 is one we find to be both fascinating and incredibly inspiring. The organizations founder, Fabio Zaffagnini, spoke to Alternative Nation shortly after their “Learn to Fly” video was launched and the campaign to bring the Foo Fighters to Cesena went viral. He explained how simple drive by the park (where the video would eventually be filmed) inspired this seemingly crazy idea.
Fast forward a little over a year. The idea, the dream, … became a reality as Foo Fighters were so moved by this effort they agreed to play a show in Cesena on November 3rd. Though a November European tour was already in place, Cesena was added in late October as a direct result of the video that Dave Grohl called “one of the greatest moments of my life.”
As a part two, Alternative Nation had the chance to speak with Zaffagnini after the concert about the overall experience, how the accomplishment is sinking in and what’s next for the Rockin’ 1000. He also discussed how Dave Grohl revealed to him that the Rockin’ 1000 changed his view on how he looks at Foo Fighters songs.
After your Rockin’ 1000 “Learn to Fly” video launched and went viral, Foo Fighters had you as their guests at their show in Washington back in August correct? How was that experience?
It was Mumford and Sons who invited us to the Gentlemen of The Road Stop Over in Walla Walla, WA. Foo Fighters were performing that weekend so we had the opportunity to meet them. It was a weird experience: we were treated like Rock Stars, the policeman at immigration asked me a selfie!!! Can you imagine?
What was it like meeting the band for the first time after all you had done with Rockin’ 1000?
It was a confirmation of our expectations. The Foo Fighters are the way any fan would imagine and hope: funny, ironic, friendly and extremely laid back. After a few seconds it was like talking among friends.
Was that the first time you had spoken to anyone in the band?
Yes, it was the first time.
Where were you when you learned the Foo Fighters had agreed to come to Cesena and play a show on November 3rd?
Well, we were pretty sure that they would have come after talking in Walla Walla. Anyway, we discovered it as we were back home. We heard rumors of people secretly making inspections in town in search of a location.
That must have been a very emotional moment?
Ever since the day after the Rockin’1000 performance, everything has been so emotional, unexpected and big that I feel like I’ve been detached from reality. It’s hard to explain. It’s like being a kid at Disneyland, with thoughts that rush so fast into my mind that I find myself staring at the wall for minutes…maybe I’m going nuts.
Can you tell me about the Foo Fighters Cesena show? How was it, what was the overall experience like?
Well once again, we had a lot of things to do and a lot of work – our documentary, all the press relationships and our communication work. I didn’t have time to think about what was going on until the concert started. It has been just magic: I almost knew all the people inside there, 3k people in a small location…it was like a party among friends. Foo Fighters have been so generous, it was a fantastic concert and everybody was so loud and happy all the time.
Did you get to help write the setlist?
Yes, a little bit! Right before the concert we talked about it.
Dave Grohl brought you on stage, let you sit on his throne and speak to the crowd? What was that like for you?
I will probably never get back to earth after that. It has been such a strong emotion. Every time I think of this my eyes get wet, but not because I was so close to the band or somehow “popular” for three minutes. It’s been the best ending I could imagine, after more than one year of hard work, joy and pains. Thinking about all my team, all the people who worked at Rockin’1000, the musicians, volunteers, donors, even the ones who watched our video, millions and millions of people that got goose bumps.
It is just overwhelming, crazy.
I got chills from head to toe when I first saw the Rockin’ 1000 “Learn to Fly” video, I know Dave Grohl said it was one of best moments of his life and brought him to tears, but I still can’t imagine what it would’ve been like for the band.
Dave said that they don’t really think about the rest of the world when they write their songs and seeing that video helped him to realize the impact they have on their fans.
What they (and other bands as well) do is entering people’s guts, and this means that for the past and future decades, millions of people were and will be inspired by their songs; while driving, jogging, working, studying, dancing, doing whatever they’re up to. All of them will be mumbling their words, shaking their head, tapping their feet.
I have no idea about how they feel about this now, but if they have time to think about it, I am sure that they would feel satisfied about their contribution to mankind.
As special as this was for Cesena, it also appears as if it was incredibly special and moving for Foo Fighters. Did you ever think of it like that when putting this together? How special this could be for the band?
Yes, I hope that it has been special for them as well. Rockin’1000 has been a declaration of love for them and for Rock’n’roll. Everyone likes to be loved!
Can you tell me about the after party? I heard/saw that the band showed up and Dave Grohl jumped on stage with some of your local musicians. Did you know that was going to happen, Grohl would show up?
I told Dave about the after party and told him that a few musicians brought their instruments for a jam session. Before the concert Dave told he would love to come…and so he did. I could not believe he was serious, but this is what makes him a very special person. Very special.
Looking at the entire experience now, thinking “we did it,” how are you feeling right about it all? What does it mean to you?
Well, I haven’t realized in full what happened. It will take time. I am very focused on what’s next, it is part of my being restless.
Of course I had the confidence in the potential that me and my team had, and I often think about what we can still obtain through perseverance, passion and study. I feel a lot more optimistic and self-confident.
How has life changed for you personally with this entire experience?
I try to keep a low profile and not to take myself too seriously. We did all this for fun and everything went by far beyond all our expectations.
I had to quit my previous job and my life has become a mess, I struggle to keep up with everything.
It is weird to be continuously stopped by people asking for selfies and receiving compliments, I feel amused and embarrassed at the same time, but I am sure that in a few weeks all this will stop. What comes out of the internet is so fast.
Is Rockin’ 1000 now your only and full-time job?
No it is not. I would love to and I am working on this, but you know, it is not so easy to make money in Italy for this kind of thing! Rockin’1000 was not meant to be business-oriented. We’re actually figuring out a way to transform it into a company that organizes non-conventional events, keeping the same values: integrity, passion, craziness, joy.
Anyway, if anybody is hiring send me an email! You never know!
Dave Grohl suggested you guys should keep going and do the same thing for bands like U2, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, etc. Do you think you will?
We’re thinking about it, it is very hard. Everything has been so perfect and great and successful that it is hard to measure up. We think that we may go on in another direction, but you never know!
What do you plan to do now? What’s next for you and Rockin’ 1000?
We’re planning to organize further events involving common musicians, giving them the opportunity to go big. What people don’t know is how cool it is to hear and see them live.
Will you be keeping in touch with Dave Grohl?
Well, I am going to write him if I have something to say, I could have a blink of how his life is like and I don’t want to bust his balls. Spending some time with him has been great and I could hear his stories forever, it is such an unusual and interesting perspective…but you know, I am a common guy and I don’t care about telling others that I and Dave are friends.