Band competitions are sometimes tough, but the second round of the Square Room's Sound Off competition was especially hard on Oak Ridge folk-rock group Dark Hollow Band, which broke up in the wake of its last-minute withdrawal from the Nov. 2 showcase.
The reason? Guitarist/singer/songwriter Randall Wilkerson objected to the list of Billboard pop and rock hits from the 1990s that the band was expected to choose a song from to cover for their Sound Off performance. (Each band in the contest plays two original songs and a cover, selected from either a particular artist or a list offered by organizers, during its set. Other bands in the competition last week chose Jon Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory" and Mariah Carey's "Fantasy.")
"My reasons for not wanting to do it are: I do not know even one of the songs on the list. I do not want to learn any of the songs on the list. I don't like pop music, I am not a pop musician, and I don't have the time to put into songs that I have absolutely no interest in performing anywhere, anytime, or for any reason," Wilkerson writes in an e-mail explaining his decision. "Dark Hollow Band is not a pop band and I have no interest in it becoming one. I'm not putting down on pop music or pop musicians, more power to them all, but it's just not for me."
Other members of the band agreed with Wilkerson's assessment—"The '90s were the absolute worst decade for music, ever," says Dark Hollow multi-instrumentalist John Gillespie—but felt the Sound Off opportunity outweighed their personal taste.
"I told him it was the single most important gig we'd ever had," says Gillespie, who has been playing with Wilkerson in the band since 1999. "This might get us in Sundown in the City, and that's been our goal for 13 years."
But Wilkerson wouldn't be swayed. He blamed the last-minute withdrawal on Gillespie.
"As soon as I saw the list of songs we were expected to choose from (about two weeks ago) I asked John to cancel our part in the contest," Wilkerson says. "I made this known to John over two weeks ago and told him to cancel our part in the event. Instead of canceling the event like I asked him to, he decided he would try to coerce me to play. He thought that I would give in and do it if I knew he had to cancel at the last minute."
According to Gillespie, Wilkerson and the rest of the band have now officially parted ways.
"I've seen him make nuns cry and babies laugh," Gillespie says. "He's amazing, I can't take that away from him, but he's hard to work with."
King Super and the Excellents won the second round and move on to the March 7 final round. The Dec. 7 Sound Off features Brad Blackwell, Tabula Rasa, Soulfinger, the Hotshot Freight Train, and Maps Need Reading.