NOISE on Balboa is a Mixture of Past, Present and Future San Francisco

By Beth Lederer


NOISE is a treasure trove of vinyl records, a compact retail shop on the Balboa Street corridor in the Outer Richmond. Within this tiny storefront a world full of music lives; huge sounds, rhythms, beats and melodies all coexist.

NOISE is a throwback from the sixties with a modern twist.  It is an intergenerational family run business. There is a little bit for everyone at NOISE: it’s a record store, art gallery and music venue.  NOISE first opened its doors in 2015.

“NOISE is a representation of what I remember San Francisco in the 60’s to be,” said Sara Johnson. “It’s what I remember San Francisco being in terms of the artwork, the music, the camaraderie.”

The owner was of NOISE (Daniel Brown) with his mother (Sara Johnson) who volunteers at NOISE
daily during store hours 12:00 pm-3:00 pm. NOISE is a record shop, art gallery and music venue on Balboa in the Outer Richmond.

NOISE acts as a community hub bringing neighbors together.

“The ability to connect with people of all walks of life. Noise is one of the places where things are so inexpensive we make it so easy that everyone can shop here. People come here and trade things and we make it real easy, and we do it on purpose,” said Johnson.

Most albums at NOISE are less than $10.00 and there is even a $1.00 bin.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Johnson is the mother of the owner of NOISE, Daniel Brown. Johnson said her son has been a collector of albums since he was six. Brown does all the purchasing of the vinyl records and he is also a professional musician and saxophonist.

Pablo “Raiz” Arroyo well acclaimed muralist is repainting the mural The Great Wave of Kanagawa on the top of the storefront of NOISE after it was removed due to construction in February. “Music is Freedom” painting in the front window of NOISE was also painted by “Raiz” featuring owner Daniel Brown playing the saxophone.

Johnson volunteers at the store daily where she greets every customer with a huge smile as they walk through the door. Store hours are 12:00 p.m – 3:00 p.m.

What makes NOISE stand out is its representation of all music genres. 

The store carries classical, rock, soul, funk, hip-hop, rap, electronic fusion, country, folk, punk, new wave, blues, zydeco, comedy and a lot of jazz. Noise has a huge number of categories other stores are not carrying such as spoken word and local recordings. 

“We sell artists that come in and want us to sell their records. Each one of these envelopes is a local musician or band. So what we try to do at the store is represent what the local musicians and touring bands have, whether it’s vinyl, tape or CD,“ Johnson said.

Ashlan Parker is a regular customer at NOISE. He is purchasing Color of my Skin by Swing 52 which he characterizes as House Music. Parker has purchased a lot of jazz records here and he discovered Stanley Turrentine at NOISE when it was playing on the phonograph at the store. Parker is on a big Jazz binge now.

NOISE is also an entertainment venue. Carpool Tunnel and Ginger Root are two acts who have played at NOISE and stood out to Johnson as excellent musicians before going on to having a huge following on social media and international success.

A nice perk for customers is that Johnson plays any vinyl record requested, on the turntable at her desk.

NOISE customers are very important. Johnson asks every customer for permission to take a picture of them with their purchased item: vinyl, CD or cassette. She has an estimated 12,000 photos collected. 

Albums are still relevant today and are making a comeback with the millennials and the Gen Z population.

Betsy Avila recently moved into the neighborhood
from Southern California. Avila found NOISE when she looked on Google Maps searching for local music stores. Avila is very happy with her purchase of Olivia Newton John’s greatest hits and complimented the very good selection of records.

“Albums are so important because it’s not only about one song, they tell a story. People would listen to the full album,” said Johnson.

Ashlan Parker is a regular customer who is purchasing Color of my Skin by Swing 52 which he characterizes as house music. 

”I like all the different records that I can find here.”  My favorite genre of music is between house and Jazz, I got a lot of good jazz records here that I fell in love with,” said Parker.

Tyisha Hill is a DJ at USF originally from San Diego and now living in San Francisco. This is her fourth time visiting NOISE. Hill is purchasing a cassette of local band-LEER-hard core music-and had recently seen their show.

“I bought the Stanley Turrentine. I discovered it here because I loved it when you were playing it.  It’s really nice that customers can try the album before buying them,” said Parker.

Tyisha Hill is a DJ at USF. She purchased a cassette from NOISE of a local band called LEER. Hill had recently gone to a show a few weeks back and described their music as hard core.

“A lot of my friends like to collect vinyl, CDs, cassettes because it’s something cool to have,” said Hill.


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