The Universe: Explained ft. The Membranes: Gorilla, Manchester

The Universe: Explained ft The Membranes
Gorilla, Manchester
Saturday 20th July 2013

Words: Rev. David Gray (Punk Monk)

My take on how the UNIVERSE was EXPLAINED:

What happens if scientists and musicians who are all passionate about what they do perform for an audience of scientist, musicians and music fans all thirsty to be entertained on a Saturday evening in a popular Manchester club? “The Universe Explained” – a daring experiment involving Manchester musicians, scientists, artists and poets intended to find out.

Being a seven on the eniagram; a Franciscan with Aspergers and a Punk, there seemed no need to prepare or plan – just a willingness to be there with a readiness to be spontaneous – so it was in excited anticipation that Punk Monk crossed the Gorilla threshold for the gig of the billennium.

Drummer Rob Haynes met me in the restaurant area. “We only got a chance to rehearse together this afternoon”, he told me.

I was in good company then. When I bumped into Jim from the astronomical society, who asked me what I was going to do and I told him I had no idea, we both broke into huge grins.
Moving into the inner sanctum of the venue itself, a group of Goldblade fans approached and asked to have their photo taken with me.

“No, use a bloody camera!” We laughed as we fell into pose.

The Universe: Explained ft. The Membranes: Gorilla, Manchester

The first part of the evening began gently enough as Goldblade and Membranes front man, music journalist John Robb, interviewed leading theoretical physicist Prof. John Ellis. The good professor, who is involved with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, slowly tuned our minds to concepts of super-symmetry and got us wondering about possible locations for dark matter and what it may or may not be.

Next, TV science consultant, cosmologist and author Doctor Stuart Clark shared his personal insights, before we were treated to a selection of poetry delivered by star poet Maurice Riordan. Our brain cells were then stimulated by experimental philosopher and artist Jonathon Keats – affectionately known as “God’s Pornographer”, followed by astronomer and science educator Radmila, who had travelled up especially from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.

The first half closed with Chella, who shared space related news stories through the medium of cringe worthy love letters from her quirky book “It’s not you – I just need space”.

We were in the capable hands throughout of artist, writer and light specialist Michael Trainor.

As well as being an opportunity to visit the bar or take a stroll on Whitworth Street West, the interval was an opportunity to explore some of the ideas we had been exposed to. Punks, students, folkies and geeks alike were running round as gleefully as kids in a Whacky Warehouse as they used tubes, vacuums and hundreds of ping-pong balls to recreate the cosmic dance patterns of microscopic particles. When you have just been reminded that your origins can be traced back trillions of years to exploding stars and that the gold and silver in your jewellery was deposited during pre-historic,non-organic alien visitation, ancient memories are triggered that tend to inspire feelings of glee and wonder that trip people into play mode.

The Universe: Explained ft. The Membranes: Gorilla, Manchester

Spotting my M8 Jan Cole from the Gorton Morris affecting a shower of sub-atomic missiles across the space, I looked around for her husband Chris and their daughter Grace. They and several other familiar faces were scattered among the constellation of club goers. Some of our Punk regulars were still not getting it. Regular Goldblade gig goer Martin looked at me bewildered at one point.

“What’s going on, Punk Monk? Where’s the music?”

“Be patient”, I told him, “the best sauce on any meal is a blend of hunger and anticipation!”

“So this is just the horse’s do-dahs?”

Martin and his mates were still uncertain as part two opened with composer Suzie Shrubb explaining how she had been researching the sounds pulsars make as they travel towards earth from a distance of around 16,000 light years. As the stage behind her filled with some fifteen musicians with a range of string, percussion, wind and keyboard instruments, Suzie told us that there were patterns in the spaces between the clicks of pulsars that were similar to the spacing in music.

“The cosmos”, she told us excitedly, “has been singing since the big bang. At last we are starting to learn how to hear it. This is how it translates …”

A violin began a haunting throb that was soon accompanied by extraordinary intermittent pulses from the other instruments. The scientists and musicians in the room were enthralled. I glanced across at Martin who had the appearance of a rabbit caught in headlights.

At last, the time had come for the Membranes, featuring The Falls Steve Hanley. The raw energy of their music had the floor heaving with pogoing bodies. A couple of songs in John Robb paused to shout:

“Have we any religious people here tonight?”

“There’s Punk Monk!” someone shouted.

Clambering on stage, John asked me what I made of the night so far.

“We are all on the same cosmic orientated socio-political scene”, I replied. “There are no absolutes. I’m a priest – but you must not mistake me for a religious man, for I lock nothing within my own limited understanding. The truth being out there, we are invited to discover it together in an encounter of equals!”

“Then feck off back to your flock”, cried John as the crowded floor absorbed me once again.

We had modelled the egregore of a Hadron Collider in which the sub-atomic particles of punk, science and theology collided to explode cosmic glimpses of pure insight into the brains of punks and geeks simultaneously. In that moment, everyone was flooded on a high of string theory, Matrioshka conception and space-time paradoxes. The universe was within us and beyond us and we were its collective consciousness.

What happened next was the biggest cherry on the most enormous cake as we all tucked in to a final helping of authentic heart expansion: Suzie and her classical pulsar musicians mingled on stage among the punk maestro’s.

The Universe: Explained ft. The Membranes: Gorilla, Manchester

That’s when the room really went wild as everything fell in place. The last cosmic jig-saw piece slotted in and we soared in that bliss of humanness where the head, heart and emotions merge in a realisation that nothing is left out and no one excluded from the song of the One … the next moment we were falling through the liminal spaces on hyper-drive in the dance of expanding life.

© Rev. David Gray (Punk Monk) July 2013

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  1. Furthermore, when John Robb stands on stage and goes “Any religious people here tonight”, that translates as “I’m a lion. Its lunchtime. I’m hungry. I could murder a Christian… any volunteers to meet their death by humiliation out there?”
    You know that John can work a crowd. Any hint that you would stand up against his mockery of God, and he’d work that crowd against you to humiliate you…. that’s a given.. but the really interesting question is “Why?”
    1)It sells the merchandise. Despite the fact that the Internet has educated people out of believing that the Establishment is christian, … John Robb still holds to that view because it sells “Anti-Establishment” merchandise… the old fashioned idea of shocking the establishment out of their restrictive christian ways, really isn’t going to work now that we know that Jimmy Saville had been selling them children to abuse for their little get-togethers. But if he wants to move that merch stock he’s got to ignore that the occult and the establishment go hand and hand…. after all, his customers don’t really mean to signal “I vote tory” when they do the satanic hand gesture do they? Its all been a terrible mistake god-dammit!
    2) Its was old punks do isn’t it? The old punk handbook states, “Traditionally, we mock the Christian God. We don’t mock Islam cos that’s a health and safety issue. We don’t mock the Occult cos that’s a bit of a home goal. We don’t mock other religions in case people see it as racist. No. Stick to what we know. Mock the christian god, because its a tried and tested method of appearing to be rebellious and the christians won’t object. Poor downtrodden buggers are used to it arent they?” That is a direct quote from the Old Punk Handbook you know. Available from the Membranes web-site very soon. £10.99
    3)Lastly, you David, may well have seen the “Porn for God” idea as radical art. Who knows? Maybe John Robb and Michael Trainer did too? London in the early to mid 80’s, specifically Goldsmiths, was the world centre for this type of art. It was promoted for a variety of reasons, none of them to do with art, and even then, people pointed out that Gilbert and George did it all before in the seventies. Badly researched, old fashioned, taking ideas from artists who have already been there, treading with solemnity the idea that “breaking the boundaries” means “being shocking”…. Even when I was at Goldsmiths, this sort of thing was written off as nostalgia…. is New York really so many decades behind the Brits? The city, in the seventies, that gave us the (truly thought-provoking and excellent) image of Jesus as a naked woman being crucified… really… is lagging behind so much these days?
    Ok, David, I’ve given you a hard time, so I think its within your rights to reply, but can I ask you to stick to the issue, which is this. If you call yourself a priest… if you claim to be a man of God, if you have “Rev” in front of your name for these reasons, then you should have stood up to John, on that stage, over the “Porn for God” section of the performance.

    It looked like a good gig, but we didn’t go cos we were sunning ourselves in Harlech, but I did email loads of christian organisations in the area, to tell them about the gig, in the hope that they’d heckle the Porn For God thing.. sadly, I don’t think this happened.
    So. Feel free to reply, but stay on the issue ok? Many thanks for reading.

  2. Phew! that was a long winded and missing the point comment if I ever saw one! Maybe Robin should have gone to the concert so he could be better placed to talk about it. It was about the universe and not about minor earth based cults. It was far bigger than that. Thought provoking and brilliant.

  3. Surely Jimmy Savile was a bit of a god type wasn’t he? lots of the paedophile stuff going on in the churches- they are the true establishment and have been shown up for what they are.


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