With a stage full of diverse virtuoso violinists fiddling away at lightning speed, who will miss the rest of the orchestra? Bowfire, a collective of the world's most accomplished and versatile violinists, plays works that span the musical spectrum. The troupe was founded by Lenny Solomon, a three-time Jazz Report Awards "Violinist of the Year" and winner of a Juno (the Canadian Grammy). Taking full advantage of his immensely versatile instrument, Solomon combines popular styles like hip-hop with the more traditional Celtic, baroque and jazz.The Houston program will include an eclectic array of selections, from Duke Ellington's "Caravan" to Django Reinhardt's "Daphne." Don't be surprised if some of the musicians break out in song or a zesty step dance or two. "Bowfire is a totally staged theatrical experience with the production values of a Broadway musical," says Solomon. "We have sets, backdrops and rock concert lighting to fit the mood of each work." Bowfire continues to light up the arts scene in Canada, having recently been invited to perform at the Governor General's Awards, the Canadian version of the Kennedy Center Honors. 7 p.m. Friday, November 21. Hobby Center, Sarofim Hall, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-227-4SPA or visit www.spahouston.org. $15-$50. -- Nancy Galeota-Wozny
Let it drive you mad at the Headbanger's Ball
As one music critic has put it, "As long as there are 14-year-old boys, there will be heavy metal music." And, as we all know, many a man has a teenager within who still loves the off-the-scale machismo of metal -- and anything ending in the suffix "core." Feeding that need in spades is the Headbanger's Ball.The lineup is crawling with East Coast badasses. The Massachusetts powerthrashers who make up Shadows Fall have been playing for nearly a decade but are still in their twenties and full of insane energy. West Philly's viciously intense Lamb of God promises buzz-sawing guitar riffs and heart-stopping beats. And New Jersey's melodic thrashers God Forbid have amazed audiences simply because four members of the quintet are black. "A lot of people check us out because it's like a taboo," guitarist Dallas Coyle has said. 8 p.m. Wednesday, November 26. Engine Room, 1515 Pease. For information, call 713-654-7846 or visit www.engineroomhouston.net. $18. -- Eric A.T. Dieckman
Equality for All
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Comedian Carlos Mencia has ruffled his fair share of feathers with the Archie Bunker-style bluntness of his onstage observations. "I've gotten in trouble with every race you can imagine," he explains. "They say, 'I can't believe you talked about this -- you're racist.' And I say, 'How can I be racist? Isn't racism exclusionary? If all of you are offended, that's because I'm including every race in my jokes.' " How ironically egalitarian. He performs at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, November 20, and Sunday, November 23; 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday, November 21, and Saturday, November 22. The Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray. For information, call 713-524-2333 or visit www.laffstop.com. $25 to $32. -- Keith Plocek
Looking for a quick hit of offbeat culture? Quirky Works, an evening of performances by the Houston Metropolitan Dance Center and Chrysalis Dance Company, offers eight contemporary dance pieces in under two hours. Says Michelle Smith, Houston Metropolitan Dance Center's executive director: "Instead of sitting down and watching a full-length ballet, you're getting a taste of everything." 8 p.m. Saturday, November 22. Wortham Center, 501 Texas, 713-522-6375, www.houstonmetdance.com. $18 to $35. -- Lisa Simon