Although largely forgotten today, bands of German musicians (generally from the Westpfalz region) were regular visitors to New Zealand’s shores from the 1850s up until the outbreak of World War I, making them among the earliest professional European musical ensembles to be heard in the country. Plying their trade on the streets and in other public spaces, German bands were also routinely hired to perform for garden parties, school sports days, dances and boat trips, as well as on countless other occasions. Yet despite their apparent popularity, contemporary comment published in newspapers of the day demonstrates that reactions to their performances were decidedly mixed. While some members of the public clearly enjoyed the contribution German bands made to local musical life, others were less than delighted by their (often noisy) presence. In 1893, for example, one Wellington resident complained that ‘a German Band … may be heard braying at every street corner at all hours of the day and night’, while noting also that ‘It is the genuine article, all the performers being wanderers from the “Vaterland”, unmistakeable “sauerkrauts”’ Within weeks of the outbreak of World War I, ten members of a German band had been arrested in Auckland and taken to Somes Island in Wellington harbour, where they were interned for the duration of the conflict. This article examines the New Zealand public’s changing perceptions of this particular brand of street musician from colonial times until shortly after the end of the First World War.