It started as an idea between the two members of local Irish band The Black Donnellys: a film that would document 60 performances in 50 states in 35 days.
Dave Rooney, 48, approached local film director Karl Nickoley of Frequency Pictures last year. The tour started on May 11, 2018, at Ri Ra Irish Pub at Mandalay Bay and ended in New York on June 14.
The 90-minute film titled “This is My Home” premiered May 4 during a private screening at Maya Cinemas. The band is looking for a distributor for the documentary, which features band performances along with interviews from Americans across the country, including immigrants and those born in the U.S. Nickoley said he found many of the people through mutual friends and Facebook groups.
“Dave (Browne) had the idea to do it,” Rooney said. “I happened to meet Karl through a mutual friend. We were trying to break a Guinness World Record, which is pending as of now. But we ended up meeting a lot of people who were compelled to tell us about their Irish heritage.”
In addition to incorporating the band’s performances, the film also was designed to “capture the essence of immigration … given all the uncertainty going on in our country right now,” Nickoley said. “We wanted to talk to Americans in every single state and get the real pulse on where this country is right now — to see if the American dream is still alive and, if so, what it’s like from an immigrant’s perspective today.”
In every state they visited, Rooney said, someone from the audience came up to talk to them. Their most memorable experiences took place in New York and Boston, where the pair visited Irish memorials reminding them of their heritage.
“At the memorial in New York, there was this small house sitting on a small piece of land with soil and grass directly from Ireland,” Rooney said. “As soon as we walked up to it, it felt like we were kids again — smelled just like back home.”
He added: “We played at a youth correctional facility in Colorado. Played in front of about 15 or 20 kids —four of them who were in there for murder. It was a different experience and harrowing to think about what would happen to them in the years to come.”
It isn’t the first time the duo has broken Guinness World Records, Rooney said. In 2011, Browne set a record for playing the Maritime guitar for 114 hours nonstop in Dublin, he said. The group broke a record in Las Vegas in 2014 for the longest concert ever held; it lasted 15 days and 10 hours at Ri Ra.
Browne said the pair’s output doesn’t resemble reality television.
“This is actual reality what we do,” he said. “So we wanted to see if it will work. And it does work — everywhere. Music, especially Irish music, travels much farther than any other genre I think.”
About the band
Who: Dave Browne on guitar, mandalin and banjo, and Dave Rooney on acoustic guitar, bass, piano and vocals
History: The Black Donnellys have performed in Las Vegas for over five years and have performed together for nearly 15, Rooney said. They met in the Canary Islands, 75 miles west of Morocco, in 2004 and have since made it their mission to share their Irish heritage.