Pennsylvania bar owners’ trip to Ireland to be capped by their own music show

Story posted August 28, 2014 in

DUBLIN – Like a lot of good ideas, it started with a few drinks among friends.

During a typical night out on the town earlier this year, Josh Funk, owner of Annie Bailey’s Irish Pub, and Joe Devoy, owner of Tellus360, both located in Lancaster, Pa., hatched a plan to put on a live music show for Penn Staters in Dublin.

Thanks to Devoy’s Irish roots, Funk’s alumni connections and a shared passion for music, the two were able to book a show at Whelan’s in Dublin for two Pennsylvania musical acts the night before the Croke Park Classic.

“I’m always looking for something to get Penn Staters to do, so it’s a little piece of local town flair you might not have otherwise known about,” said Funk, who graduated from the university’s hotel and restaurant management program in 2004. “I thought it was something fun and unique to do while people are over in Ireland.”

The two acts, Vinegar Creek Constituency and solo artist Corty Byron, have both played Lancaster bars over the years. Leo DiSanto, lead singer of Vinegar Creek, and Byron have grown close with Funk and Devoy. So, on the night they hatched their brilliant plan, they decided the whole group should explore the Emerald Isle together.

“It was Leo’s idea first, and Corty kinda liked the idea,” Devoy said. “So he said, ‘If you’re going to Ireland, I’m going to Ireland.’”

To say Whelan’s is just another run-of-the-mill Irish bar is a massive understatement. Top artists such as Ed Sheeran, Arctic Monkeys and Bloc Party have performed on its stage during the pub’s quarter century of existence, and the pub is well known internationally for being shown in the 2007 film “P.S. I Love You” in which the characters praise the bar for its beautiful music.

“Whelan is probably one of the best Irish music pubs there is,” said Devoy. “It will be good to add a little Pennsylvania to it.”

Devoy, a native of Ireland, lived there until he was 18. He went to college in Erie, Pa., then lived in Manhattan and Yonkers for six years and Annapolis, Md., for 12. Seven years ago, he settled in Lancaster to open Tellus360.

His family lives just a few minutes outside of Dublin and he sees them only about two to three times a year. So when Penn State penciled in its home opener against Central Florida at Croke Park, just minutes away from his parents, brothers and sisters, he jumped on the opportunity to bring his friends and family together for an entertaining tour of the country.

“The people in my new home get to meet the people in my old home, and have a few drinks together,” he said.

This is not the first time Funk and Devoy have worked together to put on an event with Irish flair. Last year, the bars organized a big St. Patrick’s Day party in Lancaster, complete with live music and an outdoor beer garden.

“In that whole experience, we figured out we worked pretty well together,” said Funk, “so why not take this show on the road to Ireland?”

As far as Irish pub culture, Devoy said tourists traveling to Ireland for the first time should expect a warm welcome and a pint served with a smile.

“You might be sick of people talking to you by the time you get out of there,” he said with a laugh. “Ireland is a beautiful country, but the beauty is in the people and how open they are.”

Even the music will sound familiar to American tourists. Devoy said Irish people “absolutely adore and love music,” and that impromptu music jams among strangers, called “sessions,” will give travelers a taste of Irish culture while also reminding them of home.

“American music has always been huge in Ireland,” he said. “From country, to bluegrass, to Appalachia, to rock. Any Irish musician you go and hear, chances are you’re going to hear them sing about some American landscapes, whether it’s West Virginia mountaintop or country roads.”

(C.J. Doon is a student in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State.)