Elizabeth Mencel, better known as the pop act Rozes, brought an enthusiastic performance that roused the fickle audience’s attention at U Street Music Hall Thursday night.
Rozes took the stage before MAX, another pop act, and performed songs like “Roses,” which was her first big success with The Chainsmokers, and songs from her yet-to-be-released EP. In an interview after the show, Mencel spoke about her desire to branch out with a sound track different from the songs that shot her to success.
When Rozes played the opening notes of “Roses,” the audience collectively put their iPhones in the air to Snapchat the moment. She called on the audience to bob their arms when the last beat dropped. They complied, finally reciprocating the energy she gave off during her performance.
After the track reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, Rozes flew out with The Chainsmokers to perform at Coachella, her first taste of the festival circuit. Meanwhile, EDM duo Galantis reached out to produce a song she had written, which she called “a magical dream.” Mencel also contributed vocals to a song with producers Big Gigantic featuring the rapper Logic.
“It kind of was just this perfect storm of, ‘this was happening,’” Mencel said.
With a music background that flourished in high school, Mencel began recording tracks and putting them on the music sharing website Soundcloud. Mencel later had the opportunity to collaborate with big ticket names in EDM, The Chainsmokers and Galantis, which brought her early success.
She is currently on tour with MAX, a pop act who got his start playing Zander on Nickelodeon’s TV show “How to Rock,” which attracted an array of young audience members to the music hall Thursday night. Rozes said she felt pressure performing for a crowd that mainly bought tickets to see another artist, but that this only fueled the energy for her to provide a more intense show, she said.
“There’s two ways I can see it: I either go out bitter that I’m not the one headlining, or I go out there and I get those fans,” Mencel said.
In the middle of her set, Mencel said that she tweeted at President Donald Trump with an invitation to the show and wanted to let him know about the diversity and tolerance of the young audience.
What Rozes lacked in song recognition from the audience, she made up for in vibrancy. The song “Burn Wild” culminated in an bombastic bass drop where Mencel owned the entire stage. The big burst of energy was enough to snap the audience out of their conversations to focus on the performance.
Mencel’s exuberance was complemented by Philadelphia-based drummer Benny Brown, whose energy resonated in furious drum fills, spinning his sticks and stirring excitement within the crowd. At one point, Brown picked up a guitar and soloed while Mencel took over on percussion.
Rozes’ shift in sound from EDM to pure pop was an unconscious decision on her part, given that her first EP was produced before The Chainsmokers collaboration materialized. Even though she first attained commercial success on electronic music DJs’ songs, Mencel said she never intended to be a musician in the EDM genre. She admits to feeling like the popularity of EDM would be “a phase” and that the genre, similar to disco, would fade out of the mainstream.
“In the music industry, to be successful is to be ahead of the curve,” she said.
Mencel said she is currently working on material for her new EP with music producer Toby Gad, who has written hit songs with Beyonce and John Legend.
Mencel added that it can be hard to break free of Soundcloud’s relative online obscurity, but becoming a more serious artist requires authenticity and knowing your message.
“I’m taking a step backwards and saying, ‘Who am I as an artist?,’” Mencel said. “I want that to show.”