Dave Grohl walks into the studio. Dave Grohl walks in behind him. Then another Dave Grohl, and another. Seven dudes of identical stringy hair and varying tees: This is the committee to evangelize rock and roll, or so goes one implication of Dave Grohl’s mildly baffling new project “Play.”
Snark will inevitably greet the black-and-white mini-documentary that shows the lead Foo Fighter playing all the instruments of a 23-minute composition. Some might wonder if the rock world doesn’t already conceive of itself as a room of cloned Grohls, or if it’s healthy to duplicate someone who’s already made a career of duplicating his icons. Some might ask if he’s experienced so much bandmate drama over the course of three decades that he’s sworn off collaboration entirely. Some—not me!—might make rude cracks about someone playing with himself, or about how Multiplicity flopped the first time.
But this being a Dave Grohl project, it imagines a world without cynicism, and, in fact, a world where the greatest virtue is exuberance. Since emerging from Nirvana with the Foo Fighters in 1994, Grohl has worked to be not only America’s last consensus rock star, but also a keeper of the cause that is “rock and roll.” The HBO series Sonic Highways had him touring landmarks of American music, and at the 2012 Grammys, he touched off controversy for appearing to dis artists who relied on a “computer” rather than the “human element,” seemingly implying that electronica or rap are lesser forms. But his message is, in fairness, not quite about genre. It’s about the passion of creation for its own sake, rather than for some trend’s, or even, sometimes, for a listener’s.
“Play” presumes to pass that passion to a new generation. It begins with voiceover about the rewarding challenge of learning to play an instrument, and then segues into interviews with young, diverse students of music. They talk about the lack of support for music education in their schools, and about all the great things—focus, commitment, fun—that guitar or piano or drums offer them. At the bottom of the “Play” interactive website, there are links to music-education organizations across the country. A press release mentions “upcoming auctions” to benefit such causes.