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The Sessions Music Hall staff. (Dana Sparks/Emerald)

In Sessions Music Hall, small Eugene bands found a stage with revered sound quality. But come October, the downtown venue will shut its doors permanently, leaving a hole in its place.

In an August press release explaining the closure, owner Danny Kime cited financial issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the onset of the pandemic wiped a promising schedule amid record-high ticket sales, and the business had not recovered its momentum.

Kime doesn’t expect a return to pre-pandemic conditions for several years. He said the venue functioned on thin margins before 2020, balancing an expensive location with show revenue, but that’s no longer possible.

“Flash forward to today, and the business model simply doesn't make sense,” he said.

Sessions began life as Hi-Fi Music Hall in 2015, before rebranding to its current name in 2019. It has hosted national touring acts, local bands and private events in a 10,000 foot space with two stages and two bars. Previous performers included Phoebe Bridgers, of Montreal and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Bodhi Lenox plays guitar and books concerts for Gentlebeing, a Eugene indie rock band that has played in the space on three occasions. He said most venues are inaccessible to inexperienced bands, whose musical skills don’t immediately translate into business savvy or an understanding of the lingo professionals use. But Sessions was different.

“Booking was very simple and extremely welcoming,” Lenox said.

Lenox said the venue has superior sound quality compared to the house shows he usually books. A dedicated engineer helped Eugene indie group Mommy achieve punchy, danceable sounds, bassist Milo Brosamer said.

“W​​e came with what we're good at,” Brosamer said. “Then, the engineer met us halfway and boosted our sound.”

Lenox praised the venue for hosting a wide variety of different genres and communities. Bolsemer said it attracted audiences from the bar and house show scenes alike. 

However, attendance wasn’t consistent. Kime said surges of the omicron and delta variants dampened comeback attempts. With high expenses and obligations to reopen, the venue eventually ate through its grants and pandemic relief.

When Brosamer played the space, he noticed some signs of financial fatigue. This included small marketing budgets, light security staff and an empty mainstage. 

“Lovingly, the announcement that it was closing didn't really surprise me, “  Lenox said. “We're still in a post-COVID situation. And the fact that any venues were able to survive COVID is, frankly, a miracle to me.”

With this closure, Brosamer said the local community is losing a bridge to national acts, which frequently opt for their own openers instead of giving local bands a chance. 

“Without Sessions, it's going to be on touring bands to reach out to individual bands in the Eugene scene, rather than there being an established place where local music is emphasized,” Brosamer said.

Kime wrote that the closure is personally painful. 

“The hardest part will be saying goodbye to our team and the relationships we've built over the years,” he said.

The venue will still retain its immediate schedule, including Sir Mix-a-Lot on September 1.  A final concert, featuring Shovels and Rope, will happen October 25.

“Shout out Sessions,” Lenox said. “We love you.”