The following is an excerpted feature from CREEM Magazine #002 coming Dec. 15. Subscribe now to reserve your copy.

The Winklevoss twins were ready to rock! It was June 2022, and the billionaire entrepreneurs roared into Asbury Park in a 45-foot Prevost tour bus that announced, in huge, garish letters, that MARS JUNCTION had arrived to bust the house down. The new cover band had come to rock out the hot 1990s/2000s jams of their youth: Blink-182, Fall Out Boy, the Killers, Kings of Leon, Mumford & Sons, Sublime. A year earlier, they’d debuted in Brooklyn after a series of increasingly larger dress rehearsals, and a tour was the next logical step. Now the boys were stepping out hard, traveling in a nine-person team that included a vocal coach and a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter passenger van.

Their performance history was meager. Besides piano recitals, there’d been just one high school production, when they’d played mute eunuchs in Tarzan suits, each mirroring the other’s movements for laughs (as monozygotic mirror twins, the two are reverse images of each other, down to birthmarks and handedness). At Harvard, they’d jammed with classmates Miles Fisher (the future actor and TikTok star) and Divya Narendra (later immortalized in 2010’s The Social Network, along with the twins themselves). But they never had the time to play gigs, what with their Olympic-level rowing and infamous entanglements with Mark Zuckerberg.

Cameron, the band’s guitarist, had been “beyond frightened” before that first show in Brooklyn. Tyler, the band’s frontperson, found the thought of a tour “nerve-racking.” But they’d already tested their mettle as athletes, and both men were confident they could power through stage fright just as they’d once powered through the superman exhaustion of Olympic competition (they’d competed in Beijing in 2008). They’d been made famous through a Hollywood film over which they had no control, then staged a dazzling comeback in the world of Bitcoin (Gemini, the cryptocurrency exchange they’d founded and run since 2014, is currently valued at just over $7 billion). In light of all they’d accomplished, asking crowds of strangers to pay $25 to take them and their music seriously seemed like a light lift. It may not be a third act for the duo, but it could at least be Act 2.5. Fun, they reminded themselves before hitting the stage in Asbury Park, was the prime objective.

Mars Junction in concert
Mars Junction in concert
Another standing-room-only show. Photos by Chris Spiegel

In the 20th century, the label “rock star” was the ultimate statement of individuality, a license for generations of swaggering, staggering musical geniuses to trash greenrooms and hurl televisions off balconies. In this century, the term has an extra meaning. This new usage came from the workplace, and originally implied virtuosity, like “ninja” or “guru.” By the 2020s, however, the term seems to have further devolved into something closer to “productive.” In many offices around America, telling someone they’re a “rock star” is now the same thing as telling them they did a really good job, a verbal downgrade so widespread it’s rendered the term meaningless. A quick search on my local Craigslist jobs board found “rock star” applied to a dental sterilization technician, a Jimmy Johns delivery driver, and a commissary kitchen prep cook in Canoga Park. One board management software company markets itself with a web banner reading “Become a Compliance Rock Star.”

Another switch happened this century, one that feels related in ways visible only to future historians. The bosses are rocking out. The late Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen played guitar in Paul Allen and the Underthinkers. Lamar McKay, BP oil executive, plays guitar in the pro-whiskey Southern Slang. Both bands sound like Home Depot commercials. The founder of Xerjoff hired Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi to jam with him on an instrumental track promoting a new line of perfume. David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs, is also known as DJ D-Sol. His peppy EDM tracks sound like hold music for a Finnish airline. “No matter how much money you make or what you do, everybody wants to be Keith Richards,” Mangano Consulting CEO Charles Mangano said of his Rolling Stones cover band in a 2006 interview with The Wall Street Journal. Cablevision CEO James Dolan once booked his own band to open for the Eagles, at Madison Square Garden, which he owns.

During the tour, video from Mars Junction’s Asbury Park gig went viral. The comments were rough. As footage from more dates came in, a groundswell of online ridicule quickly followed. At 41, the good news is that neither man much resembles their Hollywood avatar Armie Hammer, now an accused abuser and cannibal. The bad news is, they’re both starting to look like Jeffrey Epstein. In video from the Casbah in San Diego, Tyler wears a sleeveless Nine Inch Nails shirt, slit down the side and fastened at the bottom with safety pins. Below this swings a conspicuous wallet chain, an odd fashion statement for someone who once publicly forecast a cashless society by 2025.

Tyler struggles with the notes. He sings with that push-pull of karaoke, a mix of bashfulness and joyful abandon. In moments without vocals he seems slightly lost, sometimes pointing at the keyboard player or drummer, sometimes pumping both fists skyward, as if declaring victory over the song. Occasionally, he and his brother lock into a lurch that resembles toddlers getting excited by music, or seniors grappling with decreased mobility. During the rappier songs (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine), he makes occasional flapping hand gestures.

Winklevoss twins Hotfootin’ it to the Black Friday sale at Guitar Center in 2011
Hotfootin’ it to the Black Friday sale at Guitar Center in 2011. Photo via Getty images

It feels snarky to honestly address their performance, so I’d like to introduce one piece of exculpatory evidence. Mars Junction are a band. And most bands are not good when they start out. I have seen musical groups so, so much worse than Mars Junction. I’ve seen bands so disgracefully bad I had to bolt outside to weep with laughter. I’ve witnessed bands, plural, so disgusted with their meager audience that they verbally attacked the few people who did turn out. I’ve watched band members fight each other, on stage.

I’ve spent years touring with bands. Most of my friends have as well. For us, memories of touring are memories of grueling slogs. Not just the physical labor, the amps lugged up stairwells and the epic quests for clean restrooms, but the emotional labor, the enforced downtime of sound checks, the slow-motion exhaustion of driving hundreds of miles to play to dozens of dinkompoops for tens of dollars, night after night after night after night.

“Dinkompoops”—what a terrible word to call your own fans, the people who came out to see your touring band. And yet, you begin to resent them, the people who support you, because you are so goddamn fucking tired; tired of the driving, and the bad food, and the no sleep, and the ugly odors, and having less privacy than a convict, and at some point you project your fury outward, at these nice but ultimately anonymous people you meet every night, an endless procession of them, these wonderful people you’ve started to call “dinkompoops” in your head because you just want to go home. Money can only shield you from so much. I’ve seen biohazard horrors in nightclub bathrooms I’ve never shared with my therapist or wife.

So what is it about this lifestyle that would attract someone who can do, literally, anything? If you could race Ferraris, or hang glide in the Sahara, or explore the ocean floor, then Christ on the fucking cross, why on Earth would you do this?

Layout for Compliance Rock o' Clock in CREEM #002

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