Dave Browne, left, and Dave Rooney are the Black Donnellys
By Nora Scally
You may have heard of the Black Donnellys, the Irish duo made up of Dave Rooney and Dave Browne. Residing in Las Vegas, the band had broken a Guinness World Record for the longest concert. Not satisfied with just this, the two men decided to break another.
Rooney and Browne decided to perform 60 concerts in all 50 states in 35 days. On their journey, they took a camera crew to document their music, misshapes and the people they meet along the way.
They entitled the tour “This Is My Home” – to unite the country and meet as many people as possible, to learn stories and understand the folks that inhabit these United States.
Setting off in an RV, Rooney and Browne had setbacks almost immediately. An injury to their driver, followed by a cancelled gig in Alaska almost ended their pursuit for the record just days into the journey.
“After buying the flights to Alaska and our gig being suddenly cancelled, we had to scramble and try very hard to book a gig on the fly or the record would have been vanquished instantly,” said Rooney,” Thankfully we got to play at the Pioneer nursing home in Anchorage, and the show went on.”
After Alaska, the duo headed back to the mainland, playing shows in the Northwestern United States. From Idaho, the group was supposed to fly to Salt Lake City, Utah for a connecting flight to Hawaii. Their flight was cancelled to Salt Lake City, resulting in a race against the clock to get to their flight to Hawaii. The band and road crew drove several hours to barely make their flight.
“Fatigue was setting in early, because it was difficult to sleep on the TV while it was moving, as a result we were starting to feel a little overwhelmed and when things went wrong, they felt multiplied,” said Rooney, “Obviously we wanted to get to every destination in a timely fashion, so panic was our friend the right way through the tour. It was tough. Every day was a challenge.”
The group managed to get to Hawaii and perform, but not without another setback. While trying to return to the mainland United States, a volcano erupted on the island, grounding all flights and holding the tour back even more.
“This was pretty fantastic and unbelievable that yet another obstacle was thrown right in front of us, and being honest, I thought the tour was doomed at that point,” Rooney said, “Planes were grounded and we only just got out of there and back on the tour with minutes to spare. Yes, we were preparing for the inevitable, and accepting defeat when suddenly the airports opened back up. A miracle.”
The tour continued more or less as scheduled, however financial trouble was another unanticipated obstacle that nearly concluded this odyssey. The crew decided to come up with a modern solution to this problem. Taking to social media, the duo asked fans and friends for help with finances through a “Go Fund Me” campaign.
“It was so incredibly critical. With a crew of 11 and a gas -guzzling RV, we were burning through money. Some venues didn’t want to pay the agreed fee, and some cancelled so we were, as a result of that, always on reserve,” said Rooney, “The Go Fund Me saved us. It kept us alive as we approached the East Coast and the states were getting smaller and easier to reach. We were so thankful of the massive support.”
Rooney made one show very personal and emotional. His first cousin, Kelly, was born in Florida to Irish parents and who worked at Finnegan’s Irish Pub in Delray in the state passed away suddenly at 29. Rooney wrote a song for Kelly and stopped at Finnegan’s on the tour to perform it. He said that show meant the most to him during the tour.
The duo completed their show in New York City, playing at several different venues to reach the 60 concert target.
Throughout their journey, the band discusses the concept of the American Dream within the group and with fans they met along the road trip. Rooney reflected on his own personal American Dream and whether or not it had been reached.
“I’ve always dreamed of coming to America, we both have. America has long been seen as the land of opportunity, it still is. After five years of living and playing here, I still believe that,” said Rooney. “I brought my wife and four kids with me to America, and have been received very well. My American dream is still in the making, and is thankfully, looking like an achievable reality.”
The Black Donnellys’ record -breaking trip has not been fully awarded by Guinness, and the issue is still pending. This has not stopped the duo from still feeling proud of their feat.
“We performed in every state, we got out and met the people and we loved it. People were great. The support shown was incredible. America is a friendly, fun-loving positive place to be and live,” said Rooney, “It’s a place you can thrive as long as you have the will to succeed, as long as you are contributing and adding to society in a positive way, you will be rewarded for your efforts.”
This journey was filmed and made into a movie, “This Is My Home” – an in-depth look at the band, their struggles and successes as they journey across the United States. The band is hopeful it will be released to the public by the end of 2019.