I will not, even for a second, cheapen the memory of Larry Enos by pretending that we were great friends. There were people who knew him longer, knew him better and are surely missing him with more profundity than I am.
But god DAMN it, he was a good one, wasn’t he?
A bassist whose talents were universally recognized, Larry was the kind of man who made indelible impressions on people. He was Big, in just about every sense of the word, save for demeanor. On stage, he was a thumping, driving, musical Thor: hammering out glorious, steady thunder for the rest of us mere mortals to feel and tremble at. Away from his amp, however, Larry could be so quiet, so unassuming, he had a way of making a statement feel almost apologetic.
Larry’s most recent band, The Other Brothers, played two of my birthday parties and the only wedding anniversary I’ll ever have. He debuted the favorite of his on-stage accouterments—dubbed simply “the hat”—at one of them. The story, as he told it to me, was that he was headed to the load-in, saw it at a garage sale on the way and decided “what the hell.”
When Larry put on that shitty black cowboy hat, it was like Superman stepping out of the phone booth. He’d grip that bass, lower that hat and go to town. Larry’s greatest strength as a bassist was his selflessness. He played in a way that served as a pounding, groovy underline to whatever his frontman was doing. Larry was able to absolutely steal a song, without ever needing to steal spotlight. Not only could he be a band’s metaphorical Scottie Pippen, he was capable and smart enough to turn whomever the fuck he wanted into Michael Jordan.
My own friendship with Larry was complicated and at times bordered on adversarial. I don’t suppose that makes him that much different from my friendship with anyone else who has played or loved music in this town. But the biggest difference is that with Larry, there was never any sense that it was personal. We didn’t agree on a great many things, but I never got the feeling that any of it caused Larry to dislike me as a person.
That was only one of the ways in which Larry Enos was better than most of us.
But it was not something that was in any way unique to my experience. Larry’s heart had more depth to it than most of us had the capacity to fathom. He cared about things and people in a way that was incredibly empathetic.
He was weird. Fuck, he was weird. Gloriously, impressively weird. He liked some weird things, he had some weird tastes, and he was deeply, acutely aware of how awkward he could often be. And I feel sorry for anyone who didn’t make it past that first impression. Because he was one of the smartest cats I knew, who could readily talk at length about an astounding array of conversational topics. Film, books, music, art; take your pick and bring a lunch, because Larry came to play.
To write him off as just a weirdo, was to miss seeing that heart. That big fucking brain. All that talent. All that passion.
And oh, Larry’s passions ran deep. He didn’t have time for the mud puddle approach to things: if he was going to get into something, he was doing it to the hilt. Be it whiskey and cigars, bass guitars, photography, films or curvaceous, bombastic women, Larry knew what he liked and loved to indulge those passions. Whatever anyone else will choose to say about the passing of Larry Enos, nobody will ever say that he left this world wishing he’d done things. Not everything in his life worked out the way he might have wanted, and he may not have gotten to everything, but none of that was because Larry was afraid to shoot his shot.
I have always despised the phrase “he died doing what he loved.” Let’s be honest, it’s an easy line to hate. It’s lazy and overly sentimental, and nine times out of 10, perversely incorrect. But in my mind, Larry left us in a manner that perfectly sums up who he was.
He knew this triathlon was going to challenge him. He was, at times, a little afraid of that challenge. But he pushed himself and worked himself and made himself better, because the curiosity and passion and desire to see the other side of that mountain was just too much for him to resist. For Larry, the chance of a worst case scenario was not equal to the torment of never having tried.
Put any one of our minds into Larry’s body, and I don’t know if 10% of us do what Larry did. Because in Larry Enos, there was just the right alchemy of bravery, strength and insanity to do the Scary Thing.
But now he is gone. And that leaves us a new Scary Thing to bear. But just like Larry and his posts about training for a triathlon, we do not have to bear it alone. Share your memories with one another. Sing. Cry. Listen to some great local music. Hell, if you can stomach it, watch “Jupiter Ascending” and attempt to figure out why Larry thought it was so god damn good. But find someone to share it with.
There is nothing that will make this better. There’s no word or action that will take away the pain in people who knew Larry better and loved him more deeply than I ever will. And for those people, my heart goes out.
For his brothers, Michael and Chuck. For his Other Brothers, Eli and Jason. For Breigh and DeAnna and Troy and Dan and dozens of others, I’m so, so sorry. Des Moines lost something incredibly important this week and the heartbeat of the city is a little less powerful now.
One of the curious truths of being a musician is that you almost always end up unwittingly creating the soundtrack to your own memorial. There will be a lot of Nest of Snakes and Other Brothers tracks played around Des Moines in the coming days, hopefully with more than a few straight whiskeys and fat cigars as company.
But please, let that potent alchemy of Larry’s passions and curiosity be one of the things that you take away from his passing, friends. Let that be a part of Larry’s legacy: he knew he wasn’t good at everything, he knew he risked looking ridiculous doing some things, and he still got up every day and lived.
So long, King of the Devil’s Highway. You were one of the good ones.
Thanks to Eli Clark, Alyssa Leicht, Tony Dehner, Dan Tripp and Michael Enos for the photos. Sorry I couldn’t fit more in.