The Biggest Little Venue on Two Continents

Rio de Janeiro, London, Berlin, and Rock Island. All of these places have something in common: venues that consistently host international artists and cultural virtuosos.

Rozz-Tox QC is the only intimate Midwestern venue (outside of a few spots in Chicago and Minneapolis) that consistently brings in acts from all over the world. Every continent is represented – except Antarctica, but that will change as soon as penguins develop rhythm.

This Saturday, May 19th, Rozz-Tox will host Maria Minerva, the award-winning Estonian experimental artist. In partnership with Outlet and Northern Parallels, Tox&Co are especially excited about this event and even got the shop a one-day exemption to remain open until 3 a.m. It’s damn near impossible to get city officials to give special permission for anything, so this really will be an exceptional show.

Not that most events at Rozz-Tox aren’t memorable. I mention the place a lot as a venue and as a point of reference. As a subject itself, however, I’ve been unable to pin down its essence to my satisfaction. Maybe that’s because it’s so unlike any other venue I’ve seen.

For native locals, Rozz-Tox shows are often once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The room brings in artists we’ll never have another opportunity to hear unless we move to Paris (meh) or Tokyo (great food, too many lights).

For transplants – willing or not – the venue is a place to satisfy homesickness, with national and international performers coming through on a weekly basis. Or maybe you just miss the cultural jumble that is city-dwelling.

But as we’ve learned from David Attenborough’s Planet Earth series, the most specialized (i.e., “evolved”) of the species has moments when it is also the most vulnerable.

For one thing, it’s hard to get the average American interested in anything he considers foreign. I can think of a few folks for whom anything further than 100 miles from where they’re standing might as well be another planet.

In 2017, the sudden death of co-owner and founder Marissa Donth-Sorrells landed a tremendous blow to the venue and its community – those who count on Rozz-Tox as the place to meet, to exchange, and to relax.

That’s the thing about a public space that’s built on love: it generates its own societal microcosm. It becomes its own organism, so to speak, with its own systems and organs. When a significant system element – say, a tap root or a chunk of the temporal lobe – suddenly vanishes, the rest of the organism is at risk.

The Rozz-Tox community was uprooted and disoriented and has spent the last six months recuperating. There has been some depression. There will be schizoaffective symptoms and bouts of anterograde amnesia – metaphorically speaking.

And so much more is left to do. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be looking at a renaissance. That means MORE international artists! MORE unique menu items! MORE weird shit on the walls!


And MORE great shows. The only way to ensure all of this happens, however, is if our friends and neighbors take an interest in Rozz-Tox and take advantage of its unbelievable public events (it’s also available for private hire).

The events calendar is here. Facebook is here. Instagram. There’s probably some more.

These are not to be confused with the social media/contact info for the affiliated Rozz-Tox venues in China. Those aren’t the ones you want. Unless you’re in China. Then you should totally visit them both.