Caroline Herring may have been raised in the small agricultural community of Canton, Mississippi, but she doesn't have the background of your typical folksy musician. The daughter of a librarian and an attorney, Herring didn't grow up with a banjo on her knee. In fact, she was an REM fan who didn't play an instrument until she reached her twenties.But when the South is in your veins, you're eventually going to bleed. While pursuing her master's degree in Southern studies, Herring began playing the mandolin and the guitar and singing with the Sincere Ramblers. The band worked out a deal with a local bookstore, Oxford's Square Books, to broadcast a radio show out of the shop's basement. The hour-long music and literary program, Thacker Mountain Radio, sharpened Herring's talent and introduced her to established names in the business.
Herring broke off from the Sincere Ramblers and left Mississippi a few years ago; now she lives in Washington, D.C. This weekend she'll play her American roots, gospel, folk, bluegrass and electric (she's not opposed to a guitar with a plug) tunes with Billy Bright on mandolin and Bryn Bright on stand-up base. 9:30 p.m. Saturday, April 5. Anderson Fair, 2207 Grant. For more information, call 713-528-8576 or visit www.andersonfair.com. $10. -- Eric A.T. Dieckman
The premise for this "musical solo for two" reads like a tired gay joke: Two homosexual Christians, a Catholic and a Baptist go looking for God and find Ethel Merman instead. Written and performed by real-life couple Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin, The Big Voice: God or Merman? must have a good punch line. The touring show has gotten rave reviews. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. For a schedule and tickets, call 713-527-0123 or visit www.stagestheatre.com. $30 -- Troy Schulze
Locals get a space of their own
The Hobby Center's Zilkha Hall originally was touted as a viable performance space for Houston's small to midsize performing arts groups. But at $2,300 per night, renting the Zilkha just isn't an option for most local dance and theater companies. So Suchu Dance raised some money and created the Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex, a space that seats up to 150 people and is available for less than $350 per night. This weekend, the local dance company will open its new theater space, located on downtown's rapidly developing eastern edge. The event features performances by five local dance groups, art car exhibits, a silent auction and a chili cook-off to determine "Houston's hottest dance company." 8 p.m. Saturday, April 5. Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex, 2201 Preston. For information, call 713-529-1819. $35 to $60. -- Troy Schulze
Mike Epps, a.k.a. Day-Day, blows into town
Though he often plays characters who smoke a lot of weed, actor and comedian Mike Epps is no dope. In 1999, Epps invited Ice Cube to see his stand-up act in Los Angeles, and Cube was so impressed that he asked Epps to audition for the role of Day-Day in Next Friday. He scored the part. And that film led Epps to starring roles in several other films with Ice Cube, including How High (with Red Man and Method Man), Friday After Next and All About the Benjamins. Now Epps, who started his career on the Def Jam circuit, is touring the country on his own. Comedians Tony Sculfiend and Kenny Howell open the show at 8 p.m. Friday, April 4. H-Town Arena Theatre, 7326 Southwest Freeway. For information, call 713-988-1020. $40 to $45. -- Cathy Matusow