“An overwhelming and life-affirming experience”: We went to Brazil to watch ‘the biggest band on Earth’

Kerrang! took a trip to São Paulo, Brazil, to witness 1,000 musicians join forces in the name of rock music, community and human spirit.

“An overwhelming and life-affirming experience”: We went to Brazil to watch ‘the biggest band on Earth’
John Longbottom

In a world divided by politics, isolated by pandemics, interrupted by social media, it’s easy to feel alone. The antidote, as it always has been, is community. Friends, family, neighbours. The people in the pit at the last show you went to. Human connections that make life worth living.

So, what if we told you there is a growing, global community that’s bringing musicians and fans together like never before? What if we told you that you, yes… you, have an open invite to join the biggest band on Earth?

AC/DC?” you say. No. “Guns N’ Roses?” nah. “Urgh, not U2?” not a chance, my friend. We’re talking about Rockin'1000 – a rock-powered phenomenon, currently shaking arenas in Europe and South America as they gear up for a world tour like no other.

At its heart is a show, no wait, a spectacle to rival that of an Olympic opening ceremony, but with the sing-alongs and riffs of an arena rock gig. It sees 1,000 musicians (yes, we said one thousand) of all ethnicities, religions, sexualities and walks of life come together to play some of the greatest songs ever written.

Rockin’1000’s disarmingly humble founder, Fabio Zaffagnini, originally started the band in a bid to catch the eye of Foo Fighters and get them to play his hometown of Cesena, Italy. The video quickly went viral, catching the attention of Dave Grohl and the band, who duly delivered a gig in Fabio’s local venue. He now describes what the Rockin’1000 has become as “something meaningful, powerful, intense and surprising”. Adding, ”It’s my dream to bring this to the UK, America and all across the world.”

We joined Rockin’1000 in the sprawling concrete jungle of São Paulo, Brazil, for what we can sincerely say is one of the loudest, most emotional and most monumentally wholesome gigs we’ve ever been to.

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The real experience starts two days before show time, at rehearsals. As anyone who has ever been in a band will know, getting three or four people in a practice room at the same time is tough. So, imagine trying to organise band practice with 1,000 members. The mind boggles. And let’s not even get started on the tech set-up. The obstacles faced here are truly gargantuan, but the show must go on.

Setlist nailed, new friends made, performance down to a tee, we arrive at show day. The stadium bleachers swell with 25,000 fans. 1,000 musicians take their places on the show floor. They’re divided into legions of singers, guitarists, bassists, drummers and keyboard players, resembling an army rarely seen outside of Lord Of The Rings.

The lights go down. The place falls pin-drop quiet. And then… life.

The ordinarily creeping guitar lick that opens Metallica’s Enter Sandman sounds like a tsunami when played on this many guitars. Next, 200 kick drums rattle your eyeballs around your skull like a pinball. The main riff drops with the lurching crunch and impact of a falling building. And then the vocals hit.

Now, it goes without saying that few people have a voice to rival the power of James Hetfield, but the sound of 200 vocalists backed by 25,000 of Brazil’s finest is just something else. Song one of the set is an incredible, overwhelming, and frankly life-affirming experience.

Right, 17 more to go.

In the ranks of the band is a lady of 65 playing slap bass to Suck My Kiss. A 15-year-old bedroom guitarist with anxiety nailing Smells Like Teen Spirit during his first public performance. A drummer and dad of three – wearing a T-shirt emblazoned the late Taylor Hawkins – leathering out Learn To Fly like his life depends on it. Tears in eyes. These are just three of the 1,000 band members.

If it isn’t already apparent by now, Rockin’1000 is about more than playing a show. It’s about people. It’s about music. It’s about togetherness. When the music ends, we chat to a group of girls who had never met until rehearsals started, each with their own problems at college, at home, at work. They hug each other and cry. “We are friends for life,” they tell us.

Music is the great equaliser. It is an international language that respects no boundaries. A unifying force that can, has and will change lives for the better. And never has that been more apparent than in the ranks of the Rockin’1000.

If we can implore you to do one thing, as a favour to your future self, it’s this: grab your instrument of choice. Join the band. Play the show. Because, once you’ve torn down the walls of your nearest arena with 999 like-minded musicians, there’s a good chance your life will never be the same again. It’s time to dust off that guitar…

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