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 MTV News: StareMaster 2005
Maroon 5 vs. Phantom Planet

 StareMaster Final
James Valentine vs. Sam Farrar

StareMaster 2005: Eye-to-eye coverage

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— by Corey Moss, with additional reporting by SuChin Pak

Forty-eight hours earlier, Adam Levine was performing and accepting a trophy at the Grammys, but that means nothing right now. Onstage at Hollywood's Cinespace club, the Maroon 5 singer is cracking.

With bright lights and cameras in his face and hecklers in his ear, he's trying to keep his cool, but it ain't happenin'. After a few excruciating seconds, he throws his hands in the air, storms off the stage and doesn't return.

 "Phantom Planet is lame. I hope they all get pink eye."
— Maroon 5's Adam Levine

Rock and roll is all about breaking the rules, and tonight two local bands are gathered to rally against one of the first-ever lessons taught by their parents: Don't stare.

Welcome to the Los Angeles premiere of StareMaster, a staring competition that is sweeping bars nationwide ... or at least in New York and Pensacola, Florida.

Part game show, part performance, StareMaster is the brainchild of Sean Linezo and Jaimes Miller of (surprise!) Pensacola, born out of boredom and designed to "make fun and make money," Linezo shamelessly explains.

Tonight, in the first celebrity StareMaster contest, Maroon 5 face friends and future tour mates Phantom Planet. California, here we come.

Time Trials

Before actually facing each, members of both bands are timed staring into a camera so that Linezo and Miller, who serve as the judges (complete with white hats and whistles), can seed the tournament. As in later rounds, contestants are allowed to blink for the first 30 seconds, but it's strictly prohibited once entering the "Dry-Eyed Death Phase."

 "You can win a Grammy, but you'll always be blinkers."
— Phantom Planet's Alex Greenwald

Phantom Planet go first, giving Maroon 5 time to strategize backstage.

"I was thinking Virtual Destroyers," Levine suggests as a team name, unaware that it's actually an individual contest.

"I like the Stare Bears," keyboardist Jesse Carmichael adds.

Once the name is decided, the trash talk begins.

"Phantom Planet is lame, let me say that for the whole world to see," Levine says. "I hope they all get pink eye."

The singer's confidence dwindles, however, when he hears the rules. "You can't blink?" he asks, and suddenly it's a different story.

"I've done none of the prep, I'm a little drunk, I'm not really capable of paying attention to anything, let alone staring at someone for a long period of time, so I'm probably going to be the most terrible at this," he confesses. "I can't not blink."

"It's a question of will," guitarist James Valentine insists. "You don't have to blink."

"I don't give a flying f--- about this contest," Levine responds as he walks away.

"This team is falling apart," Valentine says. Or is it?

"All I'm saying is the less pressure we put on ourselves, the better we'll do," bassist Mickey Madden says with a wink. (Winking during competition is forbidden.)

 StareMaster 2005: Eye-to-eye coverage

In time trials, Phantom Planet are holding it down, especially guitarist Darren Robinson, who clocks in at almost five and a half minutes (17 minutes, 42 seconds is the StareMaster record). Bassist Sam Farrar is right behind with four minutes.

By the time Maroon 5 sit down for the camera, Phantom Planet are feeling pretty confident.

"They're all a bunch of blinkers," singer Alex Greenwald says of his competition. "You can win a Grammy, but you'll always be blinkers. They might as well be nappers."

The insults curb, however, when the bandmembers remember they'll be opening for Maroon 5 soon. "We may be screwing ourselves here," Greenwald says. "No riders for us."

Conversation in Phantom Planet's locker room changes to strategy ("Just zone out, try not to concentrate, 'cause if you concentrate, you're using your energy," Robinson shares), but only until members of Maroon 5 walk by, then it's back to trash-talking.

"Die, sleepy eyes!" Farrar yells.

Phantom Planet have reason to celebrate. No one in Maroon 5 lasts longer than a minute without blinking. "I even watched the training DVD," a frustrated Valentine laments after lasting only a few seconds.


While the bandmembers indulge in eye drops next to the stage, "the voice" — a deep, frightening recorded voice — explains the rules over a loudspeaker: "Contestants must maintain eye contact at all time, the essence of staring. No laughing, no whining, no winking, no nodding, no talking, no smiling, no teeth, no smoking, no drinking, no time-outs, no sudden movements, no touching, no complaining, no bobbing, no weaving, no coughing, no sneezing, no blowing, no tongue, no yawning, no snorting, no fluttering, no bullsh--, no excuses, no exceptions."

After indie-pop goofball Har Mar Superstar introduces Robinson and Phantom drummer Jeff Conrad, "Eye of the Tiger" plays and the stare-off begins. Thirty seconds in, "the voice" announces the "Dry-Eye Death Phase" and the music turns to something sounding straight out of "A Clockwork Orange." (Screens on the stage showing close-ups of the contestants' eyes are also quite Kubrickian.) A few minutes go by before Robinson blinks, losing to Conrad, who had lasted only a few seconds in time trials.

Next, Greenwald and Farrar take their seats. The bassist rolls up his sleeves as the judges chug their beers, toss them aside and cue the music: "Chariots of Fire." Farrar wins easily.

Maroon 5's first two starers, Levine and Carmichael, are next, prompting a girl in the audience to scream, "I love you, Adam!" As "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" plays, he sets his cocktail down and focuses, lasting longer than expected. When the whistle blows, Levine storms off, thinking he's lost, but it's actually Carmichael who blinked first.

Finally it's Valentine vs. Madden with "See Me, Feel Me" playing behind them. Although he's being heckled (somebody yells something about "Target socks"), Valentine turns in an impressive performance, surprisingly eliminating his band's top starer in the time trials. He raises his arms in victory.


After winning the semifinals, Phantom Planet's Farrar and Maroon 5's Valentine, onetime friends, rest by the side of the stage, trash talking.

"We used to be roommates, but that camaraderie is back at the house we no longer live in," Valentine says. "I'm gonna break you."

 MTV News: StareMaster 2005

"Go ahead and try, big guy," Farrar replies, before spilling his strategy: "I'm trying to let him see into my soul and let him know I'm a terrifying beast. I look into his soul and I see a little teddy bear."

Har Mar grabs the mic to introduce the finalists, "Grammy schmammy, this is the real sh-- here," he says as a mash-up of Maroon 5 and Phantom Planet plays behind him.

Farrar and Valentine take their seats. Farrar rolls up his sleeves. Valentines starts in instantly with the look of evil. "The voice" announces "Dry-Eye Death Phase." One minute. Two minutes. Valentine's eyes start to flutter. He blinks.

"Ladies and gentleman, your StareMaster champion: Sam from Phantom Planet," Linezo announces as Farrar stands on his chair.

"My eyes are killing me," he admits later as he shows off a framed certificate. "I might've caused permanent damage."

Still, that's nothing compared to what Valentine is going through. "I let everyone down," he says. "I let my family down. I let the Stare Bears down. I'm not in good place right now."

Spectator Brett Anderson of the Donnas, who are also touring with Maroon 5 this spring, tracks down Farrar to congratulate him.

"I do feel more comfortable knowing Maroon 5 won't be staring at us onstage," she says. "They'll be busy blinking."



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Photo: MTV News

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Round 1:
Darren Robinson vs.
Jeff Conrad

Round 2:
Alexander Greenwald vs.
Sam Farrar

Round 3:
Adam Levine vs.
Jesse Carmichael

Round 4:
James Valentine vs.
Mickey Madden

Jeff Conrad vs.
Sam Farrar

  FINALIST: Farrar

James Valentine vs.
Adam Levine

  FINALIST: Valentine

James Valentine


Sam Farrar