He might have been performing for 30 years in Ballarat, but Pat McCabe’s stomach still ties in knots before a gig.
McCabe is a true mainstay of the Ballarat music scene, a regular sight for decades across the city at his residencies at the Bridge Mall Inn, the Camp Hotel and the Mallow.
This weekend, for the city’s inaugural SongWays festival, Ballarat’s music community is giving back to the local legend that is McCabe by performing an evening of his songs.
The Dead Salesman Duo, McCabe’s group the Vests, and a range of guest artists will pay homage to the stalwart at a gig on Friday night at the Main Bar.
McCabe said Ballarat’s music scene had changed significantly over the past 30 years.
He also said the city’s leaders needed to make room for the creative arts to flourish.
“It ebbs and flows, venues come and go. It seems to be in a constant state of flux,” he said.
“I think the talent is always there, looking for the place to play. With gentrification, they want all these people coming in, but you still need the artists and the musicians to create the vibe, create the soul.”
McCabe has stayed loyal to Ballarat over the decades, resisting the lure to move permanently to Melbourne.
“In Australia, it’s a hard place to ‘make it’. It’s isolated. In Europe, you go 100 miles and you’re in a different country. It’s the tyranny of distance,” he said.
He also said it was getting tougher to make a living from music, with performers paid proportionally less than in decades past.
McCabe said initially, he had been “dubious” about a show dedicated to him and his songs, but eventually decided “you have to go to the party” and said he had enjoyed the camaraderie in preparing for the evening.
However, he said he still got nervous, which he said was a good sign – because it meant he had the passion and energy to perform well.
“I found a sanctuary in Ballarat, a place with likeminded people and that’s what the show (on Friday night) is all about.”
“There’s always good people, and they’re playing my songs – which is a bit of a spin-out.”
The Songs of Pat McCabe shows will be held at 8pm and 9.30pm on Friday night at the Main Bar. Tickets are $10 or free for SongWays festival pass holders.