Even when they embrace standard notation, Clogs can't help but topple the standards of form.
Arriving at Princeton University, my preconceptions began to vanish. Sports harrumphs and tailgating in the parking lot as "Rocky Mountain Way" played on car speakers? Are you kidding me? This was hardly the hard-nosed campus I was expecting. I was tempted to blow off the show altogether; then I realized that the odds of me slipping in unnoticed as an underclassman were right up there with the chance that I might spontaneously combust if that happened. Of course, Fine Hall was more in line with my ivy-covered expectations. Wandering its halls, I spied chalkboards sprawled with formulae just waiting for a young, misunderstood idiot savant janitor to unlock their secrets. Fine's Taplin Auditorium was dark and intimate; the neon lights overhead bathed the instruments below, a blue glow shimmering off the reds of a Tama bass drum. Two monstrous xylophones formed a backdrop behind three monitor speakers. There was a stringed beauty -- the "Hardanger Fiddle" of which the event's program spoke -- saddled with gorgeous dark-inked inlays. First to mount the stage was QQQ, a Princeton-area group playing together for the first time. But this was no talent show, and we weren't in for a sub-par rendition of "Enter Sandman". The quartet featured classical guitar, viola, various percussion, and the aforementioned Hardanger fiddle -- a Norwegian instrument designed with underlying drone strings to deepen sustain. Its owner, Dan Trueman, is the inventor of the Martian monitors found on stage (a quick internet search on Trueman paints him as the most fascinating musician on the face of the Earth.)