Beautiful Swimmers at Ten Tigers

Ten Tigers Parlour DC

Ten Tigers opened last November.

It goes without saying that Washington D.C. has a variety of great bars to frequent on a Saturday evening. One newcomer is Ten Tigers Parlour, a lounge in Petworth that opened last November. The two-story establishment – formerly occupied by high-end French restaurant Chez Billy – does a lot in any given day: the ground floor serves tea and sweets during the afternoon, dumplings and noodle bowls during dinner hours, and cocktails with East-Asian flair into the night. After the kitchen closes at 10 p.m., DJs play music upstairs for patrons looking to let loose and dance away their troubles. But Ten Tigers is unique among club spaces in that they rarely implement a cover fee. This has the dual benefit of allowing visitors to try a greater selection of beverages and to hear new music at free events like their ‘Regrets Only’ party series, which they hold every Thursday.

On Saturday February 18, Ten Tigers let duo Beautiful Swimmers and DJ Technics run the show. From the District and Baltimore respectively, these are no small-time music figures. Beautiful Swimmers – Andrew Field-Pickering and Ari Goldman – were named DJs of the Year by VICE subsidiary Thump last December, and they receive regular European club and festival bookings. Meanwhile, Glenn Brand a.k.a. DJ Technics has spent his twenty-year production career shaping a distinct, endemic genre of breaks-heavy dance music called Baltimore Club.

Arriving about an hour-and-a-half into Swimmers’ opening set, the atmosphere was already quite festive. The upstairs consists of two rooms: a dual bar and lounge – complete with Victorian-style seating around a functional fireplace – and a dance floor, dimly lit by paper lantern-shaped lamps above and votive candles around the room’s perimeter. Though there is enough décor to establish the Asian-Fusion theme, the overall look is quite minimalist. The focus, it would seem, is on the drinks and the music.

My companion ordered the Canton Alley, a drink consisting of bourbon, ginger liqueur, grapefruit juice, and black vinegar. The combination admittedly sounded rather unappealing, but stealing a swig upended that first impression. The drink was a surprisingly delicious balance of tart and sweet; the ginger and citrus flavors nicely complement the bourbon without becoming unpleasantly zingy. Priced at $10 like their other specialty cocktails – which range from a lychee martini to a Manhattan made with Thai Meekhong whiskey – it is certainly not cheap. But compared to similar bars it feels like a deal; we came from Petworth Citizen a few blocks north that night, where mixed drinks are at least $12 each. Ten Tigers also keeps Sapporo on tap for $5 – a pretty good price for a Japanese import beer.

The dance floor was nicely filled when we walked in, though it was far from capacity. Dancers had room to do as they pleased without invading others’ space. Unlike packed crowds at clubs like Flash, where peak time can be quite claustrophobic, the crowd never grew too dense.

Beautiful Swimmers are known for playing diverse sets, moving from cheeky italo and funk up through disco edits and garage house classics. This time was no different; they wove together newer releases by RVL and Soundstream with deep cuts like ‘2 B Free’ by DJ Deeon. Their set was not as polished or slick as those one might hear from bigger-name DJs and producers at U Street Music Hall, but their ability to energize the crowd and cut through many different styles of music without losing a beat made for an ecstatic experience. My companion had never heard of the duo before, but by the end of the night he was singing their praises and could not wait to hear about their next gig.

Technics then kept the rhythm with his own selections, which were more intense and included everything from Michael Jackson interpolations to a breaks edit of Carl Craig’s remix of “Falling Up.” By that point, I was too tired to keep dancing. And here stems my only complaint about the music: Swimmers’ opening set turned into a headlining set. If they had kept it a tad slower, it would have been a better segue into Technics.

Overall, Ten Tigers proved very enjoyable, staking a great claim in the bar scene with its well-priced drinks and excellent bookings. A no-cover institution edging into the club scene is a unicorn in the capital; even places like Zeba Bar issue cover fees for local DJs. So while I cannot comment on their daytime activities, Ten Tigers is a refreshing new alternative for D.C. nightlife.

PC: Ten Tigers Parlour