Jesus Hilario-Reyes: The Sound System

As we launch into the roaring ‘20s of the 2000s, we have witnessed kids enter into nightlife, again. In an attempt to appease these partygoers, Jesus Hilario- Reyes uses DJing to usher heaven into their lives. Reyes leans into the stillness, letting their divine tracks spark against the venues they play in, gliding and hurtling towards the listeners.

Reye’s sonic style is centered around electronic and rave influences. But before they were exposed to raving, the multi-disciplinary artist originated from the heart of Puerto Rico. Eventually, they moved to Milwaukee, experiencing a disconnect with their new environment.

“There are photos of me looking at snow and being disgusted,” Reyes said. “Milwaukee is very hard. I never felt seen there. That's why I moved on partly, but also because I just didn't see myself thriving in that type of environment.”

With aspirations to move to New York, Reyes placed their focus on their academic and artistic career, ready to carry on. Jesus assimilated into college life, and attended body-packed parties, slowly solidifying a career as a DJ.

“In high school, I was doing a lot of art programs and I just felt like that was the most the city had to offer me,” Reyes said. “I moved because I got a scholarship and I went to art school. I was going out a lot in college, and I was watching DJs play a lot. I started to conceptualize ideas behind mixes.”

Photo by Guarionex Rodriguez

They garnered respect as a DJ, and now they find themselves thinking deeper into the meaning of curating sounds and holding space for queer people. Their musical sets give audiences the freedom to flee from judgement and transcend into new levels of nightlife.

“People are raving more because usually in times of stress or trauma, people cling to nightlife and find ways to feel incubated,” Reyes said. “I don't think [raving] was ever taken from us. I think that [white people] took it and ran with it. A rave is not a room full of white people. A rave is diverse. It’s a space where you could become nobody and also become everybody at the same time. To me, it just feels like another breath of the lineage.”

Reyes hones in on their craft, focusing on the tangible validation that comes from focusing on oneself. Reye’s confidence expands, stretching to ground them in their purpose.

“My DJ practice is centered around the devotional and spiritual aspect of dance liberation,” Reyes said. “I think that is really at the heart of my art practice. It's the ‘bow’ of my practice. The ‘arrow’ is all these other things that I'm trying to puncture- like systems of surveillance.”

Photo by Guarionex Rodriguez

Reyes recoils at the DJ booth, bobbing on the turntables which act as an alter. And the audience blends together like a congregation. Collectively, they participate in an unconscious form of ceremony, connecting with God in an unearthly way.

“I go on and on about how [raving is] a devotional space,” Reyes said. “For a lot of people, it is like church. It's not tied to systems, except the sound system. It's not tied to this system of appraisal. It's just you, your body, and the music.”

Photo by Guarionex Rodriguez