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'Gotta travel yonder, brother... travel, oh, where... to the edge, oh brother... I'm not goin' out there...'

An English high roller in Las Vegas applies extreme denial to a losing streak which can only end badly, a polar bear adrift on an iceberg weighs up the pros and cons of swimming out to sea in search of land, and a retired couple on a cruise ship find themselves asking why they shouldn’t live as dangerously as they once did.


These stories and more are explored in Songs From The Edge Of The World, a cycle of songs and audio-visual presentations penned as a 'love letter' to the classic themes of Love, Death, God (or the unknown) and those who dwell on the edges of life either literally or metaphorically. Featuring homages from to singers who've traversed similar themes, and ranging in styles from alternate folk, smokin' blues and dark cabaret, with contributions from musician Jeremy Parker (Winter Flock Of Miners), Andrew Tanner (Vulgagrad, Zulya) on double bass, and featuring guest vocalists, including singer-songwriter Jade Ulani.


In an age where music combined with storytelling isn't as prevalent as it once was, Songs... presents a new take on an old art form. As a performer and creator Pete combines acting, oral storytelling, set design, projected illustrations and animations to deliver a rich, transportive and intimate concert experience. 

After initial test performances in 2013, Songs... was performed in the confines of an old wooden shed for the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival, recieving an award for best music. It was then performed to a sellout out audience at the 2015 Brunswick Music Festival. Pete and the edge team are now working toward recorded and filmic works for the project. 

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'Here we are at last. A rustic shack made of split cedar slats. Rain strafes the roof of corrugated tin. The wet hiss of angry ocean and gusts of wind filter through the cracks as a lone troubadour rises from the gloom with a weathered old guitar.

"Poor blind Harry, he's seen better days," the tall, intense stranger croons in an ominous baritone. "Look at him there on the edge of the ice, peering into the waves."

"That's the polar bear one," Pete Reid says with a sudden gulp of laughter. He puts down the guitar and we're back in a single-car garage in his East Brunswick backyard.

The angry ocean? That must have been a passing car. But he's hoping the rain keeps up for opening night of his latest intimate, atmospheric Fringe Festival show, Songs From the Edge of the World.


"When I step in here I feel like I could be anywhere," he says, fingering a rusty nail snaking out of the doorframe. "Because of the wood it feels to me like it could be a hut in the wilderness. I really like the tone that it sets."

The song cycle began as a mood more than anything, in tandem with a previous Fringe show called *Postcards from the Edge of the World*, inspired in turn by the idea of characters pushed to the geographic brink.  

"I had this image of postcards from distant places from people in some kind of extreme situation," Reid says. "It was an evocative thing that just captured my imagination.

"All the songs are basically about different characters. Some are sent as letters. One's from a boy sent to the gulags who isn't going to see his girlfriend for 20 years. It's a kind of tragic, on-the-edge love song.

"The tone is often dark and gritty but there's usually a certain humour in there as well; a sense of absurdity."

There's another, for instance, about a retired couple on a dream cruise who find their ship marooned in Arctic ice. Two more are borrowed from Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen. And of course there's the one about the polar bear teetering between certain death and a last-dash swim for salvation.

Reid has only recently begun to wonder if his childhood in the wilds of Tasmania has anything to do with his fascination for characters sending smoke signals from the outskirts of civilisation.

It was a rich place for his inner life, he recalls. He spent his obligatory hour in church every Sunday drawing the kind of pictures that have blossomed into the sketched storyboards and overhead projections strewn about the shed.

Since moving to Melbourne in the early 2000s, he's fronted a band called the Tar Gang, written and staged his own productions as far afield as Edinburgh and acted in various theatre, film and site-specific projects.

"I have this idea in my imagination of who this singer should be," he says of his latest invention. "I have this balladeer/ troubadour in my head and this theatrical way of presenting [him].

"You know how Mark Twain and Charles Dickens used to do these author tours? I think of it a bit like that, with this kind of colonial element. This man is going around presenting stories about faraway places and worlds with these illustrations he sets up before each song . . ."

He's a fascinating guy, this character from the edge with his fistful of postcards from folks in other far-flung corners of imagination. What's really intriguing, though, is how much we're all alike.

"The theme of the edge in the everyday is really relevant," Reid says. "Even though this originally came out of this idea of remote places, extreme situations, what I found really interesting was the idea . . . [that] the edge can be anywhere, at any moment. It just presents itself."

The rain lets up and the door creaks open. Somewhere, somehow, a stranded polar bear makes it safely to shore.'


Songs From The Edge is currently undergoing redevelopment, with recordings in the works. 

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