Reflections on The Kings Arms, Auckland’s Infamous Rock Venue

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Reflections on The Kings Arms, Auckland’s Infamous Rock Venue

Andrew Wilson of Die! Die! Die! looks back on the New Zealand music institution.

We were bummed when Auckland's legendary dirty rock pub The Kings Arms was sold earlier this month with it unlikely to continue as a music venue.

Over the years, the 19th-Century heritage pub on France St, Newton, in central Auckland, has played host to international acts such as White Stripes, The Black Keys, and Mac DeMarco and helped launch the careers for a bunch of Kiwi acts, including Dunedin trio Die! Die! Die!

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Here Die! Die! Die!'s Andrew Wilson reflects on some of the wild nights he spent at one of New Zealand's most loved venues.

Images: Petra Jane


When I first heard that Kings Arm's was for sale I wasn't that surprised. You just need to take a walk down anywhere in the central city of Auckland to see the amount of change that has occurred over the last 10 years.

Venues close and things change but a lot of my formative musical memories are connected to the Kings Arms. Die! Die! Die! played our first show at the pub in 2003 and I used to play there underage in my high school band Carriage H and between both bands with our unpronounceable and equally unlistenable band RAWER.

I first heard about the venue when I was in high school and Petra Jane sent me a mixtape that included a track from local synth grunge band Xanadu recorded live from the Kings Arms.

When Carriage H first played at the pub with HDU in 2001 we sat in the sports bar and I wondered where we were going to play. This didn't seem like the cool venue that I envisioned. I remember hearing Neil from HDU start playing the bass line to "Visionson" and feeling so relieved when I realised  we were in the wrong bar. Having said that,I  always found the band room too big (for my bands anyway) but what is so special about the Kings Arms is just how amazing it sounds and a lot of that is to do with the amazing job the house mixer Mark Peterson does.

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In 2002, when Carriage H released our first EP there I was so star struck meeting Mark as he played in Straightjacket Fits, one of my favourite bands and I really wanted to impress him. Playing a sold out show in Wellington the previous night, then coming up and playing to 30 very uninterested Aucklanders was a real grounding experience. This, followed by the terrible review of the show in Real Groove magazine the following month cut deep.

But Mark was also the only sound man I knew who would let us completely trash the stage and never get angry. When they put in the new big stage he'd let us set up on the floor and not complain like most sound guys.

One of fondest musical memories was seeing the Coolies album release show with the Mint Chicks and thinking that Auckland seemed so much more exciting musically compared to Dunedin. Standing side of stage watching the crowd move and seeing the connection in the room with the bands was like a blinding light for me.

My most embarrassing memory was when I was caught by the promoter trying to climb the fence to get into Sleater Kinney and then having to wait around while all my friends were inside. Another time I threw up on stage after being given something by one of the Surf City guys before we played. We always used to book the pub for the day after the Big Day Out as that was when we knew we could throw a crazy party. So many people were up from out of Auckland and the energy in the city was always so positive. In those days people didn't want to stop partying plus it was one of the rare occasions we could fill the room.

Recently seeing Miss June open for Shellac was incredible and I would definitely say one of my favourite shows of all time at the pub. Here was a new band I loved opening for the best band in the world who had played such a part in defining music for me.

I don't know what the future for the venue is and it would be a bit rich for me to complain about the closing as I don't go to as many shows as I would like to anymore. But I am so happy that I got to experience so many great shows and memories inside the Kings Arms. Thank you.