Eric Ebbert was my first friend when I moved to Logan Square about three years ago. I remember seeing him and his housemate on their porch, drinking beer and enjoying summer. Right away we started talking and quickly became friends, not just neighbors.
Last week, I found out he passed away mid-May from a potential overdose. Because I was not official “friends” with him on Facebook and I have since moved away from being his neighbor, I was slow to hear the news. But I had just seen him less than a month before that. We rode bikes on the 606 and had plans to hang out again, now that it was finally summer and we could go to the beach, enjoy outdoor music festivals, play music and explore Logan Square and Humboldt Park.
As many people do when hearing similar news, I have thought about all the memories we made together and how he really helped me appreciate the community. I still feel shocked and it’s been hard to believe this news—he was just here eating pizza in my dining room. Grappling with how to handle the grief and the fragility of life, I also want to celebrate his life and remember his compassion. In many ways, it’s a therapeutic and honorary way to start to heal.
A talented musician, Eric was in multiple bands and played shows so often that I couldn’t keep track. He played drums, bass, piano and was an absolute genius on guitar. He loved it so much that he worked at Guitar Center for a while and taught guitar to people of all ages. Some weekends he was at Moe’s Tavern, others he was at Liar’s Club, the Burlington, Schubas, Cobra Lounge and even the Metro. And he played in a number of bands, including Die High, Still Alive, Blood People and more.
The celebration of life event brought together family, friends and the Chicago punk-rock community for a night to honor Eric and rock out with his favorite bands at Beat Kitchen (2100 W. Belmont Ave.) on June 23. Still Alive, Blood People, Nice Motor, Big F*cking Idiots, The Cheat Codes (Kevin Chorello & friends), Joshua Clemens and Greg Bremer played at the event, which was appropriately titled Make Melodies, Eric’s famous nickname and social media handles. Eric’s father, Michael Ebbert, played drums during the memorial. Bringing a community together and spreading the good vibes that Eric was known for was a faithfully accurate celebration of life and I know he was jamming along.
Eric, a 34-year-old originally from Macomb, Illinois, always had a smile on his face, was a big dog lover and spoke conversational Spanish—two things we connected over right away. “Que pasa mufasa” was his go-to text message phrase, which will forever stick in my mind as an Eric Ebbert tag. He also was the first person who showed me the neighborhood—its roughness and its beauty, without sugar-coating the uptick trendiness of Logan Square. He lived near Fullerton and Central Park (where I lived for my first year) for more than eight years and knew where the best tacos, burritos and helado were around. He took me to L’Patron, La Michoacana and El Taconazo (El Tio), which has one of the best burritos in Logan Square.
I credit Eric for my appreciation of Logan Square and for meeting community members who have been here for decades. I credit him for my expanded knowledge of the local rock scene and how loop pedals work. Eric also knew everyone—he helped me with a story about a local band he was friends with who played Pitchfork and sent me tips about communities in businesses.
Ever since I met Eric, Columbian band Bomba Estereo has been on my heavy rotation because the experimental Latino group always makes me simultaneously dance and contemplate. The group played Taste of Chicago earlier this month but it didn’t feel right to go without Eric.
I remember we made a delicious feast for Thanksgiving 2017 with his girlfriend at the time. We made so much food and had leftovers for several days. With two kitchens and three hungry humans, we stuffed our faces and bought at least three pumpkin pies.
Losing a loved one or a good friend always rocks the boat and makes you feel painfully alive, yet devastatingly sad. But it also shows us the power we have on our community and the mark people leave on our lives. Eric, while gone way too soon, will always remind me to take life by the horns, enjoy all you can squeeze out of the lemons, treat everyone with utmost respect and equality, and spread happiness to everyone you can. I hope he will follow me biking around Logan Square and Humboldt Park, going to music shows, playing with all the doggos and digging into all the taquerias, for those places are where I feel him the most.