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Videos posted on social media show local bands Hot Sauce Club, Sunflower Scent and The Beatniks playing Sammy’s to a crowd of about 100 on Sunday evening.
A musician who played at the gig, who wished to remain anonymous, said some urban explorers had found an unlocked access point to the Crawford St building a few months earlier.
Sunday’s gig was a one-off special event with a predominantly student crowd.
The bands hired a PA system and used a generator system to provide electricity to the stage.
The gig was organised because there was a lack of places for bands to play.
Noise control made flat parties impossible and the few venues which were still open were booked months ahead of time.
Having "nowhere to go" contributed to poor student behaviour, especially as popular student bars Ubar and Starters had been closed this year.
He would like to see the council work on making Sammy’s a functional live venue again so the current generation could enjoy it too.
The building has sat idle since the council bought it in 2017 with the intention of redeveloping it as part of an arts hub. No decisions have been made on its future.
The performer said it had been "surreal" to take the same stage as Pavement and The Pogues, who had also played there.
Young people would always be involved in pushing boundaries, be they musical or legal, he said.
Attendees were stoked with how the gig went and wanted another one, the musician said.
Dunedin City Council property services group manager Anna Nilsen said the council had been unaware of the gig but was now in discussions with police.
Work towards a new mid-sized venue for Dunedin had already been widely canvassed in the media, and the council had no further comment about the incident, she said.