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In town from Los Angeles to pay his respects to a friend and peer, indie-rap star Murs was impressed to see so much hometown love shown for Mike (Eyedea) Larsen on Thursday in downtown St. Paul.
"It's really nice," Murs said, "but I don't know if anything could ever properly reflect the magnitude and the energy of this guy."
Thursday's memorial services in the ballroom at the Crowne Plaza Hotel did an admirable job of honoring Larsen, 28, who died in his sleep unexpectedly two weekends ago. The cause of death has not been determined.
More than 2,000 people streamed past the closed casket and rows of photos, most of which showed Larsen laughing, making a face or ferociously clutching a microphone. Snaking between the family members and who's-who list of musicians were throngs of young fans, including teenagers wearing white T-shirts with Sharpie-markered messages on the front (an Eyedea trademark).
"He pushed the genre to the limit," said Charlie Rich, 14, a freshman at St. Paul Central High School.
At a private service before the public wake, family and close friends shared affectionate, amazed and sometimes humorous stories about Larsen. Among the speakers were fellow rappers Slug and Carnage. Afterward, a somber Brother Ali said, "It was intense, but it was sweet, too."
Chris Keller, aka Kristoff Krane, performed Larsen's song "I Wish You Well" at both services, urging fans at the public service to come closer to the casket "as Mike would do." Said Keller, "The last show I saw him play, he had everybody kneel."
The wide swath of musicians in attendance spoke to Larsen's own diverse range. They included: hip-hop players such as Jesse Semanko (Unknown Prophets) and Aaron Mader (Laserbeak); jazz stalwarts JT Bates, James Buckley and Michael Lewis; and rock MVPs such as Jeremy Ylvisaker (Andrew Bird's band) and Dave Boquist (Son Volt), the latter of whom recounted Larsen offering him a copy of a Bob Dylan bootleg just a few weeks ago.
Thursday's wake preceded a musical tribute to Larsen scheduled at First Avenue on Nov. 9, his birthday. Tickets ($20) will go toward funeral costs and are on sale at Fifth Element, 2411 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.
Larsen's mom, Kathy Averill, said she was comforted by the outpouring to her son. Like Murs, though, she said Thursday's services did not quite do him justice.
"The best way people can honor my son is to be honest, passionate people every day of their life," she said, "just like he was."
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658