Jill Sobule to play movie theater benefit tonight

LAKE PLACID – Jill Sobule, who had several hit songs in the 1990s, is headlining a benefit concert for the Palace Theatre tonight at Smoke Signals.

The show gets started at 8 p.m. and will also feature the rock band And Then Bang, singer-songwriter Julie Kathryn (Smith), who grew up in Lake Placid, and classical guitar player Dana Barney.

Admission is $5, and proceeds will go to help Lake Placid’s movie theater upgrade to digital projectors as part of the Go Digital or Go Dark campaign, which is raising money to help small theaters around the Adirondacks with the expensive-but-necessary change.


Most people who survived the ’90s would recognize Sobule’s satirical song “Supermodel,” which was featured in the movie “Clueless,” or her tune “I Kissed a Girl,” a much different song from the Katy Perry hit by the same name. Sobule’s “I Kissed a Girl” mocks the popular culture fascination with lesbian sexuality that Perry enthusiastically embraced.

The Enterprise caught up with Sobule via phone Thursday evening before she played a gig in New York City. She used to live in the city and still visits often, but she moved to Los Angeles about four years ago.

She said she’s been involved in fundraisers before to help save movie theaters in LA. Those were to save art houses or silent movie theaters, but they are similar to the issues local theaters are having because it all stems from entertainment’s shift to digital formats. People have more options at home on streaming video websites like Netflix or as rentals from services like iTunes, so they’re not going out as much to movie theaters, but Sobule said it’s worth it to keep movie theaters open.

“I still love the experience of seeing a movie in a community,” Sobule said.

She noted that the shift to digital entertainment has been a challenge in her field, too, as well as in journalism.

“We’ve felt it in the music industry,” Sobule said. “It’s a tough time.”

A song called “Nothing to Prove” off her most recent studio album talks about trying to impress people at a dying record company. She told the Enterprise that song was her own little “I Will Survive” declaration.

That recent album, “California Years,” was released in 2009 after a Kickstarter-style campaign in which Sobule raised money from fans on an website to produce the album. She noted that her campaign preceded Kickstarter, with the album being released earlier the same month the company was established.

Tonight is Sobule’s last show on the eastern swing of this tour, and she said it will be a good gig to finish up with after being on tour nearly the whole summer. It’ll be nice not to have to hurry anywhere after she finishes up, she said.

Sobule said she’s looking forward to writing some music when she gets back home. She hasn’t mastered being able to write while on tour, so she has to carve out time for it and unplug from her phone and iPad, which she said she’s totally addicted to, when she’s home.

“I have to put them away,” Sobule said. “I have to go into analog mode.”

She said that while many artists she knows start writing a song with the music, but she starts with the story the song will tell. She’s particularly inspired by the songwriters of the 1960s and ’70s who were big on storytelling, like Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and John Prine. She loves that Prine always includes some humor in his songs, even when he deals with dark issues.

Sobule said she’s never been to the Adirondacks before, but she’s looking forward to it.

“I’ve wanted to go, actually, for a long time, and I hear it’s absolutely gorgeous,” Sobule said.

She said she prefers smaller venues, so the upstairs concert space at Smoke Signals should be just her style. She told the Enterprise about a show she played in Pittsburgh earlier this week in a small club.

“I loved that it was just so packed, and the energy was just so amazing,” she said. “I actually really like the intimate spaces. I like seeing people.”

She said she hopes lots of people come out to the show.

“It’s going to be a good time,” she said.

Other acts

The Sobule gig was added at the last minute. Tim Follos, who books acts for Smoke Signals, said he was trying to fill up the venue’s schedule for the summer and was browsing the tour schedules online of acts he likes. He had seen Sobule open for Billy Bragg in Washington, D.C., recently, so he checked out her schedule and saw she was nearby and open today. So he emailed her management company, and it just worked out.

Smoke Signals co-owner Layla Wolfberg had been pushing to throw a benefit concert for the Go Digital or Go Dark campaign, so Follos said that once he booked Sobule, “it just seemed to make sense to roll that into one and make it a bigger event.”

Sobule is set to start around 10:15 tonight and play for about 90 minutes.

Follos had been talking with Julie Kathryn, who graduated from Lake Placid High School in the late 1990s and now works as a singer-songwriter in New York City, about playing a show here. Sobule was enough of a draw to bring her north as well. She will precede Sobule’s set, starting at 9 p.m.

Barney is scheduled play his classical guitar set for about a half-hour, from about 8:15 to 8:45 p.m.

And Then Bang wanted to play the benefit, so they will close out the night with a late-night set from around midnight to 1 a.m. The band consists of Mike Korpan, who plays drums for the popular local band Jim, playing guitar; Josh Henderson, a former local DJ, on vocals; drummer Ryan Trumbull, who was the first drummer with local band Lucid; and bassist Jason Stolz, who is co-owner of Smoke Signals.

Follos said the band plays catchy, alternative-style rock but has a variety of song styles, from rockability to indie, punk to hardcore.

Go Digital or Go Dark

Follos said Wolfberg was a big proponent of supporting the local movie theater. Plus, Heather Clark, whose family runs the theater, is a waitress at the restaurant.

Clark was “stoked” when she heard Sobule would play the benefit, “so that was all the validation I needed,” Follos said.

The Go Digital or Go Dark campaign was unveiled earlier this year to help movie theaters around the area convert as the movie distribution industry switches to digital formats. If theaters don’t invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into new digital projectors, they won’t get the first-run movies that keep them afloat financially.

Kate Fish, executive director of the Adirondack North Country Association, which is spearheading the campaign, told the Enterprise recently that she’s confident that both Lake Placid and Tupper Lake’s movie theaters will survive.

In Tupper Lake, State Theater owner Sally Strasser got a microenterprise grant through the village, and there’s a soon-to-be-announced fundraising opportunity that Fish said should help.

Strasser has purchased a digital system for one of her theater’s two screens, but it hasn’t been installed yet. Strasser spent part of her time until recently working in the movie industry in New York City, and Fish called her “very savvy” with this kind of thing.

Fish said the Palace Theatre in Lake Placid already converted one of its four theaters to digital, and she expects there are enough people looking to donate to look at converting two to three of the theater’s screens.

Reg and Barb Clark, who run the movie theater, feel like they need to decide by October whether they will convert the other three screens at the theater, Fish said.

Fish said ANCA is in the process of applying for $150,000 in state Council for the Arts grants for three theaters: the Palace and ones in Indian Lake and AuSable Forks.

Enterprise Managing Editor Peter Crowley contributed to this report.

(Correction: We have deleted a sentence in which ANCA reported, incorrectly, that the Palace Theatre is halfway to its fundraising goal. Palace co-owner Barbara Clark reports that it still needs $180,000 out of its total goal of $280,000. The $100,000 raised so far includes a $70,000 investment by the theater itself.)