Memories of the Kings Arms: the pub's five most rock 'n' roll moments

Stop all the clocks. Tonight, the Kings Arms tavern will pour its last pint and close its doors forever.

It's been rumoured for years, but today - February 28 - it's really over. Octogenarian rock 'n' roll queen and publican Maureen Gordon (she actually preferred classical music to the typical Kings Arms offering) bought the venue back when it was a working man's public house catering to the 3pm crowd, full of tradies, jugs, cigarette smoke and ashtrays.

Over the years, with the help of daughter Lisa, Maureen morphed the Kings Arms into one of Auckland's most legendary music venues. But after 30 years at the helm, Maureen sold in 2016 and the beloved pub is now scheduled for demolition, to make way for a massive modernist apartment development.    

The pub will receive its last rites from Al Hunter - the first act to ever play at the venue - late tonight, and then the Kings Arms will be no more.  

But rock 'n' roll will never die. Here are our favourite Kings Arms memories.

That time The Strokes and Kings of Leon popped in to watch The Datsuns

The Strokes
The Strokes Photo credit: Roger Woolman

It was Thursday, January 16, 2004. Auckland was amped for the 10th Big Day Out, which would kick off at noon the next day. Peaches was due to shake her tits, and The Flaming Lips had their mates don furry animal suits and hoon around on stage. Manhattan indie boys The Strokes and Nashville rockers Kings of Leon would play the main stages after dark.

At the Kings Arms, The Datsuns were on stage, the crowd was amped. And who should saunter in but nine denim-clad American boys. The studiously aloof Strokes and Kings of Leon had rolled in to check out the local talent, and Auckland did not play it cool.

After grabbing beers at the bar, the diminutive rock gods decamped to the sofas that had long since burst their stuffing on the Kings Arms' back patio, to escape the attention. Sheepish fans took surreptitious selfies on their Nokia flip 6131s and circled the boys, in an attempt to be drawn into their orbit.

On stage at the Big Day Out the next day, Julian Casablancas made leery comments about the friendliness of New Zealand girls and some awful comment about firm breasts. It wasn't their finest moment either.

Remembering North Shore punk Tony Brockwell


The D4 rose from the ashes of Nothing At All!, the North Shore punk unit made up of Dion Palmer, Tony Brockwell and Paul Foster. Guitarist Brockwell died tragically young in 1991, after a long fight with cancer. He was 21 years old.

Last week, on Thursday, February 22, The D4 reformed to play the Kings Arms one last time.

Towards the end of a set that included all their finest songs, in homage to Brockwell, the band burst into a cover of Busted - arguably the best-known Nothing At All! song.

Without fanfare or announcement, Brockwell's wife Angela then appeared on stage, to dance to his song alongside the band. The crowd kept slamming, some moved to tears, as she punk-rocked it out in memory of her husband.

The night Beirut gave a private concert to a table of four

Beirut performing in London.
Beirut performing in London. Photo credit: Getty

The Kings Arms could get hot. Really hot.

One evening, somewhere around 2009, folk rock outfit Beirut left the stage mid-performance, abruptly declaring that they couldn't continue.

"It's too hot in here and we're playing the encore out there," lead singer Zach Condon announced, and he led a band of four - carrying a trombone, an accordion and a snare - into the garden out back, to leap onto a random picnic table in the garden.

The table was already occupied. It held four happy, but defeated concertgoers who had already left the clammy building to recover.

As the audience of hundreds poured out of the pub and gathered around the table, the four were presented with a front-row acoustic encore, staring straight up at the rock 'n' roll crotches of Beirut.

That time Tim Rogers threatened to walk out mid-gig

He took issue with the crowd touching his wife at the bar.
He took issue with the crowd touching his wife at the bar. Photo credit: AAP

It was a solo show to tour his recent What Rhymes With Cars and Girls album. Aussie rock god Tim Rogers played the tunes, he sold tea towels and he brought along his lovely new wife, philosophy teacher Rocio Rodriguez.

As the crowd warmed up, it started to heave, side to side, a little forward and back, perhaps a little up and down, as crowds are prone to do.

Rodriguez stood at the bar, close to the stage, unnoticed by anyone in the audience. Along with the rest, she might have got a nudge or two from the appreciative crowd.

Until Rogers stopped the music suddenly, put down his guitar and yelled: "If anyone f*cking touches my wife again, I am stopping this show."

Ah, love truly is merely a madness, as the Bard of Avon would say.

A very punk rock wedding


When one thinks of love songs, Auckland punk rock band the City Newton Bombers is not the first band to spring to mind.

But they were on hand to rock the crowd at a very punk rock wedding, held at the Kings Arms more than a decade ago.

There have been a handful of weddings at the Kings Arms. Some of them are now legendary - this one was a private but raucous affair between families and friends, skinheads and punks.

The tuis were singing in the trees, the kids were running wild in the garden, the noise of the traffic carried up to the party from Spaghetti Junction below and punk rockers were slamming it out on stage.

It was a very Kings Arms kind of day.

Have a Kings Arms yarn to share? Let us know at

Maggie Wicks is features editor at Newshub.