Most people think of a music venue as a traditional building nestled in the hip part of town, maybe next to a random fast food drive-thru or gas station, but when the Lost Leaf opened its doors and started hosting shows, it was anything but ordinary.

Everyone’s favorite brick house on 5th Street wasn’t even intended to be a music venue.

“I was in a position to interject… when there was a lot of stuff missing,” owner, Eric Dahl said about opening up Lost Leaf in a Downtown Phoenix that was much different than it is today.

The classic local bars were closing down left and right, and like venues, not much was taking their place.

The first Lost Leaf gallery was above the Emerald Lounge at 7th Avenue and McDowell Road (today’s SideBar), but once Starbucks and Pei Wei moved in, the rent multiplied.

Around the same time, Dahl and fellow musician and music booker Tato Caraveo were playing at Longhouse Studios across the street from an abandoned house on 5th Street.

Dahl noticed the house with the sign in the front yard and talked to the landlord about opening it up as a bar and art gallery.

The Lost Leaf hosts free live music seven nights a week.

He opened up the Lost Leaf in March 2006. It took about 14 months for the liquor license to come through, but Lost Leaf was always open on Downtown’s favorite day of the month, First Friday. A little more than a year later, the gallery was open until 2 a.m. daily.

When Modified Arts closed down and bands had nowhere to turn, Dahl opened his doors and started hosting free shows.

“I could make a lot more money if I wanted to charge a cover,” Dahl said. But with the bar sales, money is no object to Dahl. “Downtown is really starving for music venues,” he continued.

He wanted to make good with the neighborhood and in the music scene before worrying about the bills. Bands were getting paid $100 crowd or no crowd, but now they get 20% of the bar sales while they play. The Lost Leaf has now been open for almost four years and has had over 1,000 free shows.

Kevin Seconds from 7 Seconds, Golden Boy with Elliot Smith’s ex-guitarist and Medeski Martin and Wood are some of Dahl’s fond memories inside the Lost Leaf.

“By now, we kind of got our foot in the door and there’s so much coming and going,” Dahl explained. “We’ve kind of proven our staying power.”

Tonight, The Chili Sauce will take the stage, so grab a bottle of your favorite beer or wine and take a seat at one of Downtown’s one-of-a-kind venues.

The Lost Leaf is located at 914 N. 5th Street in Evans Churchill — 602.258.0014