When the Cabooze danced with Cairo

A few weeks ago in this space I told you about an outing I had to the Cabooze the night of the Tucson murders. I spent most of my time in that 35-year-old Minneapolis institution sidled up to the front of the stage by the soundboard, trying simultaneously to get a grip on the horror of the day’s events and lose myself in the music. In the end, I was able to do both and I found a helpful lifeline in the Last Waltz tribute band’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.”

What a difference five weeks makes.

This past Saturday night, I found myself in the exact same place, again pondering the world outside the barroom walls. But instead of gurneys and blood-spattered mall walks, this time the TV images I’d been ingesting had been beaming smiles, wonderstruck eyes, waving flags, clasped hands, hugs and countless blown kisses to the cameras. Egypt was free, and hell if it didn’t feel for a few moments like the whole world was, too.

It had already been a remarkable two weeks of stories and photos from Cairo, from the murdered martyrs to the tank ringed with candles held by protesters and on and on. When the news of Mubarak’s ouster came Friday, I couldn’t stop watching the pure release of it all; I couldn’t stop taking in their infectious hard-won joy — and “infectious” is the right word here, because the same beatific expression was glowing from the faces of the 20-somethings on the Cabooze dance floor the other night in front of a hippie funk-jam band called — I kid you not — God Johnson.

In his essay “The Human Heart Is Never Completely Born,” the great Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue wrote, “Against the infinity of the cosmos and the silent depths of nature, the human face shines out as the icon of intimacy. It is here, in this icon of human presence, that divinity in creation comes nearest to itself. The human face is the icon of creation.

“Each person also has an inner face, which is always sensed but never seen. The heart is the inner face of your life. The human journey strives to make this inner face beautiful. It is here that love gathers within you.”

In Cairo and at the Cabooze, loved ones gathered by the hundreds and thousands Saturday. The collective inner face (heart) was a beacon beast of jubilation, and to anyone with half an imagination or pelvis, it wasn’t hard to connect the easy Afro beats and ancient rhythms of the West Bank with the sounds of the new day rising in Egypt. That is, it was easy to see that not only was the connection between the two cities and scenarios instant and electric, but also just another day in the lives of what pundits have been calling the “the Facebook revolution.”

Snark if you want, but it’s more than that: it’s the connected generation. That’s who was dancing in Tahrir Square last Friday and Saturday, and that’s who was dancing in front of me and my neighbor, bandmate, and partner in rumination, Pete Christensen, who ditched me at the soundboard the other night and went up front and center to feel the big bad devil beat: Oneness was happening, historically so, and Pete wanted to get close to the source.

The last time I’d seen so much spontaneous celebration of freedom and hope came from Chicago’s Grant Park on the night of President Obama’s election. To be sure, that may be the last time the world bore witness to such a spontaneously joyful celebration of hope and change, though even the utopia of the moment couldn’t completely sway me when God Johnson went into a dopey version of Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”

“This is horrible,” I said to Pete, though my grin said otherwise.

“No it’s not,” said Pete. “You have to allow for people to experience and fall into the arms of inebriation to cut loose from society’s and therefore life’s mental chains.”

Hell, yes. Two nights later at First Avenue, the banner draped over Motorhead’s drum riser upped the zeitgeist ante of the moment, and delivered a message to the various subcultures and tribes present and accounted for:

“The World Is Yours.”

Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.