A Sit Down with Benjamin Fawks of Rozz-Tox - The Echo

Echo: How did you get started promoting shows?

Benjamin: I was living in South China, this was 2006, when I started getting into booking and running a venue. I was doing that for around three years there when certain circumstances lead me to come back here. to my home town. I was enjoying it so much over there that I decided that I was going to do it here. I didn’t want to do anything else. I didn’t want to work for anyone. It was kind of like make this happen here, or just like move somewhere else. I hadn’t been here for almost a decade when I move back and researching venues and this type of scene here, I realized that it kind of didn’t exist. There was Mixtapes in East Moline at the time but they were sort of on their way out by the time I got back. Daytrotter was putting on shows in various venues around the cities. So yeah, I saw an opening for a legitimate venue that was working with a DIY ethos. In 2011 we opened this place and hit the ground running. I mean our first month we were open, the War on Drugs play here and then it just kept going. 


E: What event in this space are you especially proud of?

B: I couldn’t say any one show.


E: But are there some that just came to mind right now?

B: Yeah. I think maybe this has to do with what we were talking about earlier with the international acts coming in, but the Touareg bands that we’ve had, the African bands, like Mdou Moctar and Les Filles de Illighadad. I’ve never seen these types of African bands coming to the Quad Cities. When they were on my stage it was like “Oh shit! this is really cool!” But that said, there have been so many shows that I’ve been really proud of and enjoyed on a spectator level. 


E: What are the special qualities of Rozz-Tox?

B: It evolves with the people here. It evolves with the customers and the bands and the times. It’s not stuck in one aesthetic. It kind of shifts and learns and grows. I think that might be the most unique thing. As long as somebody’s running it well, I think it could always just keep going. It could be that kind of space.


E: Can you touch a little bit on the community that surrounds this space?

B: The community here is incredibly supportive. I mean honestly, I couldn’t have dreamt up a more supportive and better community of people to surround a certain space. They’re great, which is why we’ve lasted this long. It’s not the acts we bring in, it’s not the space itself physically, it’s the people that come in support it.


E: Where is the best place to stand in Rozz-Tox?

B: If you ask my sound guy, Ian, he would say there’s a sweet spot somewhere in the middle. Kind of in the center and a bit back. I don’t know I think my favorite place to see the show would be up in the sound booth. Unfortunately, not everyone can go up there but you get this really great bird’s-eye of the crowd and the band. I mean at certain shows like I’ve had a really great time sitting in the couch area listening because the sound travels so well in the building. I guess it depends on the show. 


E: Who is Rozz-Tox for? What should people expect when they come here?

B: I think open-minded people. Adventurous. Not everything we have here is going to be for everyone that likes coming here. Each event has a very different atmosphere than the last or the next. Being open-minded when you come here is kind of necessary. You know you might see something on the TV that’s a little shocking or risque or the band might be a noise act you know that’s going to drive you outside, but no matter what the show is no matter what the event, there will always be interesting conversation here. There’s always something interesting to listen to or talk about with people like around the bar or just standing outside. There are always interesting and unique people. 


E: What is your vision for the next few years? 

B: Survival. Hah. I mean I’d like to see this place get back to you know some kind of pre-pandemic narrative. I know it’s not going to be the same, but it would be nice to shows regularly and get used to having people inside. My main goal right now is to survive this thing and kind of get it back on track.


E: Was there ever a golden era of this space?

B: Definitely when my mother was alive. That was a very special part of Rozz-Tox. She brought something completely different to the table than what is going on now. She was a special part of it.


E: Why the Quad Cities? Why are you doing this here?

B: My mother. I moved back for her. I’m an only child and she found herself alone all of the sudden and I was 7000 miles away, so I came back. She was always so supportive no matter what I wanted to do, so I knew that I would have someone strong to support this. I don’t think I could have started it by myself here. I was lucky for sure. 


E: Is there anything else you want to say?

B: Lots of people love this place, and the thing that I want to say might be very obvious to a lot of people, but I think it kind of goes over some people’s heads…the only reason this place is still here is because people come here and support it with their money. I hate that, that this is the way the world works, but unfortunately…it is. So if you like this place and want it to continue, come to a show or come get a coffee or a Bahn mi or something.

For more information about the happenings of Rozz-Tox, follow them on their social channels and look for daily updates on their website: rozztox.com.

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