Carla Lippis refers to herself as “the rabid Liza Minnelli” of the local music scene. Her raw and powerful performances have earned her acclaim across the country as well as in Europe, where she’s performed in London’s West End as the principal singer at the historic Cafe de Paris; worked as diva/MC at notorious nightclub The Box in the same city; and toured with Italian band Sacri Cuori. Now she’s back in her native Adelaide where she’s recently released her new album, Mondo Psycho.
Lippis speaks to Broadsheet about her favourite spots to eat, drink and listen to live music, and why living in Adelaide feels a bit like being in ’80s sitcom Cheers.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a singer, composer and band leader who lives and works in the beautiful city of Adelaide.
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What do you love about Adelaide?
Adelaide is the Cheers of Australia – where everyone knows your name. It’s a beautiful thing! Everything in Adelaide is only a casual 10-minute drive away, and this makes me incredibly happy. (Somehow I still manage to arrive late to everything.) We have some of the best musicians in the world who choose to make Adelaide their home, and they are criminally underrated. To name just a few there’s guitarist Django Rowe, bass player and composer Ross McHenry, singer-songwriter Dusty Lee Stephenson, and the glorious Felicity Freeman. I also love the Adelaide pace. It gives one’s mind the space to create – perhaps that’s why there’s an impressive community of art and music makers here.
What’s something you miss about Adelaide when you’re away?
The beach, the Central Market and the abundance of quality produce that is found inside my mother’s well-stocked Italo-Australian Fridge. I love the way you don’t need to make plans with people months in advance – we live in such proximity that you can orchestrate last-minute plans and make it work!
Tell us about someone or something that makes Adelaide a better place?
Adelaide is like ’80s-style hors d’oeuvres, straight from a Women’s Weekly cookbook – small, nourishing, sweet and salty. A delicious morsel, served by a salt-of-the-earth-type character, who engages with you in some delightful conversation, just long enough that you dare ask for another bite.
What’s your favourite place to grab a bite in Adelaide?
Star House on Gouger Street. I adore a restaurant with carpet, tablecloths and a bottle of wine for under $50. It makes for better ambience, the carpet soaks up the noise and I don’t have to lose my voice to enjoy dinner.
What about your favourite place to drink?
The glorious Olivia Hotel on Hutt Street. It’s run by my pal and fellow devotee of Bacchus, Simon Schumann – he lights up the place up like a dry Molotov Martini. If you look closely, you’ll see a portrait of me overlooking the bar with an aloof look and a Port Royal [cigarette] wand, painted by my dear friend, Alessandra Jordan.
Do you have any favourite shops?
The soon-to-open Frida Las Vegas gallery store in the Charles Street Plaza, just off Rundle Mall, is one I’m super excited about. It’s going to be a wonderland of bombastic, joyous and colourful creations that lift my inner goth out into a rainbow world. Stavroula [Ademeitis, the creative behind Frida Las Vegas] is about to unleash her irresistible design intelligence on Adelaide at her new space. Be sure to pay her a visit. Her creations are just what we need: diaphanous, floating sheaths of happiness that will bring joy to the terrifyingly hot days we are about to endure.
What’s one of the city’s most underrated spots?
I will always love The Grace Emily and The Wheatsheaf. Also, the various Italian social clubs around Adelaide are an awesome place for cheap and delicious grub. They are still a place of refuge for the older Italian community and are an untapped source of nostalgia and kitsch for those who want something different. I grew up going to the Abruzzo Club on Churchill Road – they have an excellent weekly Friday night pizza and pasta offering I highly recommend.
Where’s your favourite place to gig or listen to live music in Adelaide?
Ancient World is the most divine dive in South Australia, run by thoughtful, intelligent folk who have a genuine passion for underground music. You never know what you’ll find there on any night of the week; I’ve discovered some of my new favourite bands and artists there.
Is there an essential Adelaide song?
The first song that comes to mind is We Can’t Be Beaten by Rose Tattoo – rough, charming, the underdog you can’t help but barrack for.