Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2019

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The Black Donnellys, Vegas filmmaker explore American dream

The Black Donnellys World Record Breaking Concert

Richard Brian / Special to the Sun

David Browne, left, and Dave Rooney of The Black Donnellys perform a set at Ri Ra Irish Pub at the Shoppes at Mandalay Place on Thursday, May 2, 2019.

The Black Donnellys' Record-Breaking Concert Tour

David Browne, left, and Dave Rooney of The Black Donnellys pose for a photo after a performance at Ri Ra Irish Pub at the shoppes at Mandalay Place in Las Vegas on Thursday, May 2, 2019. Launch slideshow »

David Browne and Dave Rooney of The Black Donnellys immigrated from Dublin to Las Vegas five years ago. They said they left Ireland after 45 consecutive days of rain and landed in Vegas after its 85th consecutive day of sunshine.

To them, America was always a “big brother figure.” The lyrics in the Celtic rock duo’s music talk about the American dream through an immigrant’s perspective.

“The view we have from childhood is that America is a place where you can better yourself,” Rooney said.

They are embarking on their “This is My Home Tour” with the Guinness World Record-breaking goal to play 60 shows in 50 states in 40 days.

Browne and Rooney are also featured in a documentary with the same name. “This is My Home,” which is directed by Las Vegan Karl Nickoley, explores how immigrant influences contribute to the United States cultural fabric. Nickoley interviews more than 80 people nationally about what it means to be an American through an immigrant’s point of view. Las Vegas-based Chef Jose Andres is also featured in the documentary.

Nickoley said the film also looks at the parallels between the Irish-American experience and the Latino-American one — specifically, the scorn that comes with being part of a minority ethnic group in a new country.

Irish-Americans have integrated successfully into the United States. Irish influence is evident in music, whiskey and everyday vernacular — as the saying goes, “Everyone is a little Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day.”

But it wasn’t always like that. In the early 19th century, Irish refugees were forced into exile by famine and political unrest. The first wave of Irish immigrants worked low-paying jobs, menial jobs often avoided by other workers while simultaneously being accused of stealing all the good jobs. The press depicted them as subhuman, while Congress passed legislation with anti-immigrant sentiment.

“There are a lot of parallels with the Latino community and the southern border,” Nickoley said. “Now everyone claims they are Irish for one day a year … it will be interesting to see how the Latino community made it through this time in history 50 years from now.”

The lesson Browne and Rooney have taken from their tour is that in general, “people are the same.”

“They are just people … they love to get drunk, listen to music, eat and it’s not such a ridiculous thing,” Browne said.

The intention behind the tour and documentary isn’t a political one, Rooney said.

“We don’t swing right or left,” he said. “It’s a humanitarian view.”

“This is My Home” will premiere at 5 p.m. Saturday at Maya Cinemas, 2195 North Las Vegas Blvd. to an invited audience. Officials are still working on getting the film available on a streaming service.