Polar Opposites

Norwegian retro-rockers Cato Salsa Experience heat up Scandinavia with a cool sound.

"I just want to do it for my own amusement," Salsa admits. "And if other people get amused by it, too, then I'm happy. I want to make people dance and have a good time. There's a lot of pretentiousness going in rock and roll, but people can choose what they want to do. Everybody can't say something important all the time. I don't feel that I'm capable of doing that, anyway. I just wanna do what I do."

Considering the lack of sunshine in frigid Scandinavia, it's no surprise that introspection comes naturally to most Norwegians who, per capita, read more than any other population in the world.

"We have sun from April until September and then it's dark for six months," Salsa points out. "I think people like to tuck themselves in front of a fire and read. A lot of people get depressed from winter. It's part of your whole living and identity. People are handling it pretty fine, I think. They're human and can deal with it. People can't go surfing that much here, so they have to play music instead."

A good time is had by all: Cato Salsa (left) and the Experience.
A good time is had by all: Cato Salsa (left) and the Experience.

Details

8 p.m. Saturday, November 16
Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue
$12, 303-322-2308

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After eschewing a university degree in anthropology and economics, Salsa, whose father is "an expert in rust protection" for the Norwegian auto industry, followed his muse to a separate kind of education. "In Norway, people think when you're in a band, you don't do anything real," Salsa says. "You don't have a proper job, in a way. You're just fooling around with something that you can't make any money on. Some of us still have part-time jobs in Norway, but it's getting better. If we can step even one more level up, then it's okay."

In a country as consumer-oriented as the rest of the Western world, CSE is at least enjoying the benefits of a national scene that embraces distinctly different genres of music -- everything from the black metal of Darkthrone and Burzum to the more punk-influenced sounds of Lucifer. Bergen, Norway's second-largest city, claims the acoustic pop combo Kings of Convenience as well as the ambient, understated electronica group Röyksopp as residents. And after tearing up clubs across Scandinavia and beyond, CSE has come to view neighboring Sweden's musical monopoly as less of a threat and more of a benefit.

"Usually the Swedish and Norwegian bands in the rock scene are friends," Salsa says. "But I think the music machinery and business of Sweden runs more smoothly than the Norwegian one. It's a bigger country. Sweden is twice the size of Norway. I guess they have better traditions. They're more respectful towards rock-and-roll music, and they have been for years. Norway has been looked upon, you know, as things people do for their hobby, not what they should do professionally."

Thankfully, times change. Vikings adapt. Valhalla, CSE is coming.

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