Where to see gigs with crowd sizes from 1 (hi mum) to 12,000.
Whether you want to head bang, rub shoulders with sweaty strangers, become part of the show, or hide away in a cosy corner, Auckland has you covered when it comes to sampling live music.
The dedicated souls that help keep the scene on its feet can be found around unsuspecting corners throughout the city; their venues ranging from: pocket-sized lounge spaces, dimly-lit rabbit warrens and a full blown multi-purpose waterfront neighbourhood. And thanks to LYNX Black, who knows that the lads (and the ladies, of course) appreciate a good night out to some block rocking beats, we have curated this handy guide to some of the best live music venues to get down to in Auckland.
The Powerstation has been buzzing in its Eden Terrace location since the mid ‘80s; before that it was a thriving club by the name of The Galaxy. The venue regularly attracts the world’s brightest acts, many of whom have gone on to pack out larger venues – take Run DMC, Ramones, The National, Radiohead and Soundgarden for example.
The two-level floorspace is spacious enough to give you some breathing room while still managing to retain an overarching intimate feel. The acoustic quality is second to none and provides an electrifying experience, and the bar is within arms reach to satisfy those thirsty for a good time.
Whammy is the dark soul of Auckland’s red light district. Hidden beneath K'Road's St Kevin’s Arcade, the dark and dingy den is the unofficial home of the local indie, punk and metal music scenes. The cave-like venue is perfect for get up close and sweaty with fellow gig-goers and the low stage also allows for a good connection between the band and audience, practically making you, the audience, part of the show.
St Kev’s has recently been purchased by a former Shortland Street actor turned property mogul, so lets just hope it sticks around for a good while longer.
Established in 1880, the Kings Arm's has been a stronghold for local music for many decades. The large interior is ideal for those wanting to get in the thick of it and also typically has plenty of space at the rear for those wanting to sit back and watch the evening unfold. The dark, rustic insides juxtapose nicely the big sunny beer garden outback, at the ready for a breather in between acts.
The venue is a rite of passage for local talent any given night of the week and regularly hosts a fair share of internationals. Resident sound man Mark knows the system inside and out so you can expect a good listening experience.
K’Rd’s Wine Cellar has been the purveyor of intimate and interesting gigs for eleven years now. The dimly-lit rabbit warren can be found beneath shopping hub St Kevin’s Arcade, formerly the second Government House and home to Sir George Grey. With the politicians long gone, the area now attracts an eclectic combination of musicians, hang-a-bouts and wine lovers.
As their name suggests, the Wine Cellar has an impressive selection of wine on offer, which alongside the cosy lounge vibe, made up of old couches and rugs, makes for the perfect gig location. The Cellar hosts local independent artists Thursday through Saturday.
Paying tribute to the high-flying wrestling style Lucha Libre, The Lucha Lounge is something you’d expect to find in the midst of K’Road, not tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Auckland’s most popular weekend shopping destination – Newmarket. Given its small size and fireplace nestled in the corner, the quirky venue is intimate enough to feel like you’re actually in someone’s lounge.
With the tiny stage no more than a few metres squared, performers are forced to make do with the close quarters. Legend has it that an 11-piece band once crammed onto the tiny stage.
Otherwise known as The Great South Pacific Tuning Fork, the venue is the baby sibling of Vector Arena. Originally used as a pre-show dining destination, the room came into its own as a fully fledged music venue in 2013, fitted out with soundproofing, drapes, a sound system and a lighting rig.
It has a penchant for music under the jazz, folk, country, and bluegrass banners, and last year attracted a globe-trotting selection of alt-country acts for a two-week Americana festival.
The multi-purpose waterfront neighbourhood was refurbished in 2011 with the introduction of bars, restaurants, a playground, and silo-turned-cinema screens. Originally constructed in the 1930s for port activities like timber trading and petro-chemical storage, the open space has played host for things like the indie festival St Jerome’s Laneway, daytime concerts and markets.
While shade from Auckland’s formidable summer heat isn’t readily available in the concrete jungle, the cool sea breeze provides welcome relief.
Corner of Jellicoe and Beaumont Streets, Wynyard Quarter
The once hidden treasure has turned into a staple party location for the regulars of Ponsonby. Thanks to ingenious weekly programming of weird and wonderful music, the bustling venue feels consistently fresh. The small front bar is now the default location for live music and comedy. The humble area is quick to fill up so you'll have to abide by their earlier starting times.
Neck Of The Woods has come along way since being used as a dimly lit gaming lounge and internet cafe. The basement space offers several areas for friends to catch up or indulge in an all-night spell of hedonism. A list of respected promoters run an above par schedule of events every week, and the sound system will keep you on your feet for hours.
As we discovered, its not the sort of place to go for a quiet drink, even in the earlier part of the evening.
Studio The Venue has been located in the heart of K’Road for upwards of 15 years, hosting a diverse range of local and international acts in the process. Under new management the venue has been given a burst of energy and managed to pick up Best Music Entertainment Venue in the Hospitality NZ Awards two years running.
The large area has two floors of standing room, if you'd rather watch the steaming mosh pit from a distance. For an even tamer encounter, the venue runs an intimate cocktail bar at the rear of the building in what was the former band green room.
The inner city hang out boasts a cleverly scheduled weekly program ranging from risqué bingo, to a mid-week EDM night, and local live music as part of the Friday MUM club night. The main dance floor has ample space to spread your wings under the biggest mirrorball in the world, while the intimate back room prompts sweat-induced dance parties as the night evolves.
The veranda is the perfect escape to engage in a casual chat and a delectable teapot cocktail. All that plus they’ve got jeans as wallpaper.
The unsuspecting concrete building behind K'Road has been a hive of activity since the early '20s. Its polished wood floor is reputed as the fastest among the city's ballroom dancing elite, though more recently plays host to the more questionable dance moves of keen gig-goers.
The main 300 capacity room has been gifted by the presence of Lorde, Foo Fighters and Coldplay on their rise to the top, while the separate basement space acts as the perfect spot for tightly packed shows.
Due to its capacity of up to 12,000, Vector is a no-brainer when hosting premiere international acts, and should be accredited for our regular influx of international talent. The so-called “entertainment hub of the Pacific”, Vector was constructed to accommodate a smorgasbord of entertainment ranging from sporting events to theatre. It first opened its doors in 2007 and has since hosted marquee international acts like Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton, Neil Young, Paul Simon… the list goes on.