Irish Idol: Local band competes in international music competition

Naples Fire Chief Jim McEvoy, second from right, performs with the Irish band 'West of Galway' during their weekly gig at Fitzgerald’s on Bonita Beach Road on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008, in Bonita Springs. David Albers/ Staff

Photo by DAVID ALBERS, Daily News

Naples Fire Chief Jim McEvoy, second from right, performs with the Irish band "West of Galway" during their weekly gig at Fitzgerald’s on Bonita Beach Road on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008, in Bonita Springs. David Albers/ Staff

Video from YouTube

— As Naples native Paige Miles pursues the “American Idol” crown in Hollywood, a group of local musicians is looking to make its own mark on the music world — Irish style.

Naples-based West of Galway is one of about 50 bands from North America, the United Kingdom and Ireland participating in an online battle of the bands contest sponsored by the Strangford Lough Brewing Co. in Northern Ireland. The winning band gets a trip to Ireland and the chance to play at Celtic Fusion, an international musical arts festival.

Call it, Irish Idol.

“If we go over there, we’ll be playing with the people that we worship, the people that we listen to,” said Jimmy McEvoy, the former Naples fire chief who sings and plays guitar in West of Galway. “What an honor that would be.”

Voting kicked off on Monday, and runs through midnight on March 22. Fans can watch performances of each of the bands and vote for their favorite at Strangford Lough’s Website, www.slbc.ie by clicking HERE or visiting www.slbc.ie. Videos of the bands can also be seen at www.youtube.com/irishbotb2.

The top five bands after the first week of voting will advance to a final round, which will be held March 29 to April 5, also online.

As of Tuesday afternoon, West of Galway was in second place with about 16 percent of the vote, and was trailing leading band, The Kreelers from Detroit, by less than 2 percent.

“Every hour has been back and forth with that same band out of Detroit,” said Bernie Green, who also sings and plays guitar for West of Galway.

And if West of Galway fans need another reason to log on, each voter will be entered into a prize drawing to win two flights to Ireland from anywhere in North American or the United Kingdom.

McEvoy said he learned about the contest about 10 days ago. With the help of friends from Naples-based Visitors Television, West of Galway recorded two songs last week at The Stage, 9144 Bonita Beach Road.

Bands in the competition range from Irish rock and Irish punk, to balladeers and traditional Irish. West of Galway falls somewhere between traditional and rock, McEvoy said.

West of Galway — McEvoy, Green, Stephen Staddler, Linda Marie Macchia, and Alan Norman Plath — started playing together about nine years ago for fun.

“To go from that moment nine years ago to winning a contest like this and playing in one of the largest festivals in the world, how do you describe that?” Green asked. “The best word would be very appreciative.”

Green said he’s been overwhelmed with support.

“Go online (and vote),” Green said. “Tell ten of your friends to go online and do it to.”

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