VIDEO/PHOTOS: Local Irish band holding its own in international battle of the bands contest

Stephen Stradler, of Naples and fiddle player with the West of Galway music group, plays with his band at McCabe's Irish Pub and Grill in Naples on Sunday, March 28, 2010. West of Galway is in the final round of a 'Battle of the Bands'. If they win by email voting, they will perform at the Celtic Fusion International Musical Arts Festival in County Down, Ireland.

Photo by TRISTAN SPINSKI // Buy this photo

Stephen Stradler, of Naples and fiddle player with the West of Galway music group, plays with his band at McCabe's Irish Pub and Grill in Naples on Sunday, March 28, 2010. West of Galway is in the final round of a "Battle of the Bands". If they win by email voting, they will perform at the Celtic Fusion International Musical Arts Festival in County Down, Ireland.

The Singing Fireman

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Fitzgerald's - Bonita Springs

9070 Bonita Beach Rd, Bonita Springs, FL

Let the battle begin.

Local Irish band, West of Galway, is one good week away from bringing some Florida sunshine to the Emerald Isle.

In mid-March, West of Galway was one of more than 50 bands that entered an international 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.

The top five bands with the most votes in the first round made the finals. West of Galway took third, and were only about 25 votes out of first place, guitar player and singer Jim McEvoy said.

Voting for the final round started on Monday, and runs through April 5. To watch videos of the five finalists and to vote, visit the Strangford Lough Web site, www.slbc.ie.

“Our band is representing Southwest Florida,” McEvoy said. “This is our home. This is a great opportunity to represent our community and for our community to get out and vote and help us win this competition.”

The other finalists are: the Kreelers, from Michigan; Maidens IV, from Ohio; Green Tea, from Wisconsin; and Langers Ball, from Minnesota. The contest was open to bands from the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

As of Monday night, West of Galway was neck and neck with the Kreelers for the lead.

“This has all been a crazy dream,” said Bernie Green, who also plays guitar and sings for West of Galway.

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

Unlike West of Galway, some of the other bands in the finals are professional touring bands with big followings, who make their living playing music. Green said that even if his band wins the competition, he’s not quitting his day job at Comcast.

“We’re just five friends who love music and playing it and sharing it,” Green said. “We’re definitely the David in this one.”

McEvoy disagrees with the David and Goliath comparison.

“I think we have as much talent in our band as any of those bands out there have,” he said.

In addition to their regular 8 p.m. gig on Tuesday nights at Fitzgeralds Irish Pub, 9070 Bonita Beach Road, in Bonita Springs, West of Galway is looking to drum up some additional votes with a 6 p.m. show on Friday at the Under the Shady Palm Pub, 210 U.S. 41 N., Naples. They’ll bring laptop computers to the shows for people to vote.

For more information, visit www.west-of-galway.com.

A win would mean a chance for West of Galway’s members to play in Ireland alongside some of their musical idols. It would also help build the band’s reputation, and help them get gigs at Irish festivals around the country.

“It gives us the opportunity to say here’s who we are, here’s what we’ve done,” Green said.

Connect with Ryan Mills at www.naplesnews.com/staff/ryan-mills

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