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One of the biggest parties of Mike Beyer’s promoting career starts in four hours, and he’s just lost one of his DJs to U.S. Customs. Beyer, CEO of Baltimore-based Family Productions, stands on the back patio of the Edge nightclub in Southeast Washington and recounts the story to a friend over his cell phone. Everyone on the patio pauses to listen.
“He was supposed to fly in from Toronto,” says Beyer. “But the customs officials wanted to know why he was flying to D.C., staying for less than 24 hours, and turning around. Then they found the big steel box that holds his records. I guess they thought it was a bomb. They told him, ‘Pick out five records and get on the flight.’” Everybody chuckles at the thought of a DJ showing up to a big gig with only a handful of records.
“Forget it,” continues Beyer. “He’s not coming.”
The “Siesta Fiesta” will nevertheless go onthe missing mixmaster is not one of the headlinersso the dozen or so people scurrying around in preparation for the evening’s affair get back to work. Rania Webber, 26, stands on a ladder and drapes a string of lights shaped like jalapeño peppers along the top of the patio walls. “The DJs definitely get the most attention in this scene,” she says. “But it’s so important for the lighting, the décor, and the sound to work together. The visual art really enhances the experience.”
For the past four years, Webber and her business partner, Adam Ryan, 28, have been designing club interiors and raves professionally. Their two-person company, Cyberquest, has produced decorative schemes for local clubs including Nation, Club Insomnia, and MCCXXIII. Their partnership’s moniker, Webber says, was inspired by a book about rave design by the German crew known as Chromapark.
Cyberquest has carved out a unique niche in the District’s design world by focusing exclusively on what Webber refers to as “techno art.” As longtime clubbers themselves, Webber and Ryan bring an insider’s touch to their work that distinguishes them in the eyes of many rave promoters. They build many of their own decorations and have developed a signature style that’s characterized by mirror mosaics, outsized installations, combinations of organic and synthetic materials (such as bamboo and spandex), and lots of fake fur.
Ryan traces his affinity for supersized structuressuch as the 18-foot “disco totem poles” on display at the Siesta Fiestato his teenage hobby of building skate ramps. “I learned how to build things by watching my dad,” says Ryan. “He built all the furniture in our house.”
Cyberquest began as a hobby about five years ago, when Ryan, who grew up in Alexandria, and Webber, who grew up in Baltimore, began serving as decorators for their friends’ raves at a ranch in Rockville. At the time, Ryan was running his own landscaping company, and Webber was managing a cybercafe. “We didn’t have much money,” she says, “so our supplies were really simple: black lights, string art, and Christmas lights. Having a small budget forces you to get creative.”
As the ranch parties grew, so did the duo’s reputation. Eventually, Scott Henry, who promotes the weekly Buzz parties at Nation, asked Webber and Ryan to be his in-house theme decorators. “At that point, we decided we could do it professionally,” says Webber. Since then, Cyberquest has remained a full-time gig for both.
These days, Webber and Ryan look to Europe, not Rockville, for inspiration. “We have gone to London and studied the club scene over there,” says Webber. “The rave scene is much older in Europe, and they are definitely ahead of Americans.” The two also look to the past; much of Cyberquest’s style has been forged by tweaking old staples of nightclub decor. “Recently,” says Webber, “we’ve been working to reinvent the disco ball.” Felix Gillette