19 May 2014

Stages: Catching up at the Kings Arms

9:33 am on 19 May 2014


The Kings Arms Tavern is a rite of passage for bands - and gig-goers - from around the country and one of the best places to catch an international act on the way up. 

The much loved and respected venue has seen marriages and funerals, even baptisms, and when the Auckland City Council threatens its livelihood, loving patrons are sure to protest.

Owner Maureen Gordon has run the pub for the past 28 years, and it was under the influence of her daughter Lisa, the venue’s booking manager, that it became a home for live music.

“We started with just a vocal PA on the back deck, so we didn’t have a stage back then, and we had to build a sound wall because of noise control problems,” Lisa says.

The Kings Arms is one of the only spaces in Auckland with the PA and lighting set up to hold an international act, yet small enough to make it low enough risk to bring a band early in their career.

“I’ve invested in all the best equipment … and I think it’s paid off because all of the internationals know what they’re coming to,” Maureen says.

Long-time patron and radio DJ Charlottte Ryan says “I’ve seen some amazing bands here. They’ve renovated it a little bit but its’ still got its same bones that it had when we first came here.

 “What about when the Strokes came here? Remember? The Strokes and Kings of Leon it was when they’d both played Big Day Out?”

Ryan says “I’ve seen the Mint Chicks gigs here completely packed and Kody [Nielson] from the Mint Chicks swinging his mic round and swinging from the lights and everything”.

New SJD bass player, Mike Hall, says the venue is extremely versatile and seems to suit pretty much everything. “From when the White Stripes first came out here, I’ve seen Dimmer play here, I’ve played with Dimmer here…When people know there’s a show here, they kind of know it’s probably going to be a good show,” he says.

Songwriter Don McGlashan says the Kings Arms has been his local for about 20 years. “I come here to see a lot of bands and every so often I’m actually playing here, which always feels really weird”, because he feels like he should be out there enjoying it but he’s working instead.

Listen to Anthonie Tonnon's radio documentary on the Kings Arms here:

Cover image by Phill Platt.

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