Charlottesville stars at Starlight
It's a local music line-up just about any Charlottesville venue would be proud to host: Jim Waive and the Young Divorcees, David Sickmen, Lauren Hoffman, Sarah White, and Robbie St. Ours. But there's something unexpected about this Saturday's show featuring some of Charlottesville's best known acts: it's happening in Lynchburg, the industrial city an hour to our south to which a select group of former Charlottesvillians have recently removed.
At the center of this small transplanted community is the Starlight CafÃ©, a coffeeshop and restaurant opened by developer Oliver Kuttner last October and purchased two months ago by Carri Sickmen and her partner, Julie Kotowski (both are pictured at left along with daughter Ruby on Sickmen's lap, and songstress Hoffman at right).
The upcoming show– a grand opening celebration for the CafÃ©– starts at 4pm on the outdoor patio of the little blue eatery named after Oliver Kuttner's other brainchild, a luxury bus service called the Starlight Express. The CafÃ© is in Lynchburg's former Greyhound station on Fifth Street downtown, which is also the southern terminus of Kuttner's New York-Charlottesville-Lynchburg route.
Sickmen's brother, David, founder of the hillbilly rock band the Hackensaw Boys, says Lynchburg reminds him of Charlottesville back in the early '90s, when even struggling young musicians could afford to live downtown.
"Back then, I lived in Belmont, and people would say, 'Wow, isn't that dangerous?'" he laughs. Sickmen says he learned a lesson when he failed to invest early in Charlottesville real estate. In the Hill City, he's hopped aboard the home ownership bandwagon early. He purchased an 1820 house for a fraction of what it would cost in Charlottesville, moved down two months ago, and is working full time helping Kuttner restore some of the 350,000 square feet of downtown buildings he's purchased in the past two years.
But despite his hectic construction schedule, Sickmen says he's planning to get back into music. Saturday's show, he says, marks the end of his brief musical retirement.
None of the other acts in Saturday's line-up have moved to Lynchburg yet. In fact, Hoffman will be heading to Israel for at least a month the day after her Starlight performance and may stay much longer. Nonetheless, both Sickmens hope Charlottesvillians will use the concert as a chance to get a look at Lynchburg– and then maybe come to stay.
"For a young artist," says David Sickmen, "you can't beat this place."