It’s a nearly perfect Saturday afternoon. The previous night’s showers have long since moved off the Carolina coast, and the cool, dry Canadian air has rushed in behind them, setting up an absolutely exquisite day in the Piedmont. The wonderfully refreshing breeze out of the northwest jostles loose some of the leaves of the Tulip poplars that have made the change from green to yellow, and I watch them gently float to the ground. Row upon row of grapevines loom in the distance, the branches of the plants hanging heavy with the bounty of next year’s wine. People have gathered by the hundreds. Some are sitting at picnic tables with brightly colored umbrellas opened up above them. Others have settled into their own lawn chairs or are lazily lying around on blankets spread out upon the cool green grass. All have come to see James Vincent Carroll put on a show that will help them escape life, even if only for a few short hours.
I’ve ventured out to another show not only to support my friend, but to observe what he does. It’s much more than just singing into a microphone with his gritty, gravelly voice. It’s more than the guitar riffs his calloused fingers produce that keep my foot tapping and my head nodding. It’s more than just the music. It’s the human connection. It’s enjoying a glass or three of wine with good friends and hearing that Pink Floyd or Eagles cover song that takes you back to your high school or college days. Or, it’s one of James’ own personal songs that strikes a chord in you—bringing back memories of driving down a certain highway, remembering a period of heartbreak, falling in love again.
As I take in the sounds coming from the stage, I notice a mother and her son arriving. I’ve seen both of them before at other wineries for JVC shows. They stand out because this particular young man is developmentally disabled. I watch the mother and her son, who is clearly showing his excitement in being here, move across the venue. The music already has the youngster smiling and laughing. Even though he is in the middle of a song, James makes it a point to acknowledge the young man by name, and he squeals with delight knowing that this famous rock star recognizes him for what he is—another important piece of the human puzzle that has been assembled here today. I continue to observe the mother as she finds a place in the grass while her son, with his bright red baseball cap, dances next to the stage, not a care in the world. The sheer look of joy in his eyes and the mile-wide smile on his face say it all. He is in heaven –music heaven. Between songs, James continues to interact with the young man, which only increases his sheer delight.
I take a moment and glance down at my half-full wine glass. I watch as a few beads of condensation run down the stem, to the base. James starts into one of his rocking renditions of Golden Earring’s “Radar Love.” The crowd is now getting into it, as you can feel the energy beginning to ramp up. A gathering of all ages is on its feet in front of the stage. Wine glasses in hand, people are dancing, whirling, smiling and laughing. For the moment, the all- too-hectic lives we have come to know have been put temporarily on hold. And like that young man dancing and squealing next to the stage, we all have that innocent feeling of our youth and the simple reminder through song that we’re all notes on a sheet of music. By ourselves, the notes are meaningless. But together, we create a thing of harmonious beauty. Thank you, James Vincent Carroll, for not only being my friend, but for bringing us together and for being that reminder.