Poster for the concert that sparked the riots on Queen Street
‘Tears, terror at the concert that made history’ was one of the newspaper headlines the day following the Queen Street riot of December 1984. It made for heady reading over the morning cornflakes as papers described screaming children, bloody head wounds and police facing ‘gun-toting’ rioters.
The ‘Thank God, it’s over’ concert took place on 7 December 1984 at Auckland’s Aotea Centre. Promoted as a summer celebration of the end of the academic year, this free event was to feature performances by top local bands Herbs, DD Smash and The Mockers. After the set by Herbs and shortly after DD Smash took the stage, the power went off.
While waiting for it to be restored, some of the 10,000-strong audience started throwing bottles at police. There were a few arrests, and more police arrived, outfitted in riot gear.
Dave Dobbyn, DD Smash’s lead singer, then allegedly told the crowd, ‘I wish those riot squad guys would stop wanking and put their little batons away.’ The concert promoters, radio station Triple M, announced that the concert was being stopped at the request of the police.
Parts of the audience rioted. They poured onto Queen Street, smashed shop windows and left behind broken bottles, rubbish and upturned cars. Damage caused was in excess of $1 million.
The government ordered a commission of inquiry to investigate what had happened. Dobbyn was charged with inciting the riot, but he was eventually cleared of all charges.