Author: Nicole Baptista

According to the journal she kept in second grade, Nicole Baptista wanted to be one of two things when she grew up ⎯ a journalist or a “well-educated singer.” She has a really bad voice. Baptista is a writer and life-long music lover. Behind a camera or part of the crowd, she allows readers to share her experience ⎯ from an artist’s performance to the emotional response it spawns among masses of passionate fans. Always on the hunt for a meaningful story, Baptista continued reviewing and shooting live music as a freelance writer after leaving the newsroom. Some of her favorite artists include Trent Reznor, Sigur Rós, Conor Oberst, Radiohead, and At the Drive-In, to name a few. She’s driven by human connection that’s inspired by art and hopes to share it with readers everywhere. When not attending a show, Baptista volunteers with Badrap, a pit bull advocacy/rescue organization based in Oakland.

In the third of our series presenting photography from SF Sonic photographers, here is a slideshow of photos by Nicole Baptista. Nicole reviews and photographs concerts for SF Sonic. Her love of music shows in these photos.

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Dr. Dog The Independent February 20, 2020 Photos by Nicole Baptista A few simple strums of the guitar quickly turned into a campfire harmony to Dr. Dog’s opening number “California.” In no time, the sold-out crowd sang along: “And the heart keeps bringing you home / To California, where the warm sun shines / California, hear the windblown chimes / CAL-I-FORN-I-A / Though you’re far away, your love is here today.” Dr. Dog took over The Independent for four nights, playing new sets for each packed house. Shaky organ hums filled the room before vocalist and bassist Toby Leaman belted…

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Battles Independent December 3, 2019 Photos by Nicole Baptista Watching John Stanier smash his five-piece Tama Artstar II drum kit is pretty unbelievable. Sweat poured off his forehead as his thick greying hair flung back and forth to the rhythm of his hands. Half-glancing at his super-high crash, it’s as if Stanier was warning the high-rise cymbal right before smashing the brass so hard you’d think it would shatter. To his left, Ian Williams awkwardly danced behind a keyboard. At times he managed to play the keys, pluck a guitar and operate a series of foot switches and looping pedals…

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Peter Hook & The Light The Fillmore November 8, 2019 Photos by Jill Gerstenberger A mop of messy hair flung back and forth across the dancefloor. A bouncing man threw his arms up—you’d swear giant mattress springs were glued to his feet. Unapologetic and excited, the one-man whirlpool continued on among a sea of dancey diehards. A sold-out crowd packed The Fillmore’s floors to see Peter Hook & The Light. Known as the bassist and co-founder of English rock bands Joy Division and New Order, Hook is responsible for creating some of the most prolific records of his time. Sturdily…

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Dinosaur Jr. Slim’s October 30, 2019 Photos by Raymond Ahner People stood shoulder to shoulder to watch Dinosaur Jr. play some nostalgic goodies. The noisy guitar band is a 90s favorite and drew a sold-out crowd for a three-night residency at Slims in San Francisco. You could spot frontman J Masics’ long grey locks and baseball cap from the back of the room. His body stood motionless on the left side of the stage. But his fingers plucked and strummed away. He tapped a foot pedal and led the crowd into some drool-worthy, reverb-drenched solos. People wormed through the mass,…

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Thom Yorke Greek Theater, Berkeley October 18, 2019 Photos by Nicole Baptista Spastically swirling across the stage, Thom Yorke’s lime green socks peeked out from white Velcro shoes. Like a tiny cyclone, his feet impulsively tapped as his arms swam through the air. Mouth wide and eyes closed, his hands curved and reached for the crowd. It’s no secret that Yorke loves playing in Berkeley. The last time he set foot on the Greek Theater’s stage was for two sold-out Radiohead gigs in 2017. Thousands of diehard fans screamed and whistled, from the floor to the grass up top. It’s…

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Jónsi & Alex Golden Gate Theatre October 14, 2019 Photos by Nicole Baptista The audience sat in absolute silence. Gold light haloed the Wordless Music Orchestra and Choir. A giant ethereal harp shone through the darkness. Musicians straddled cellos, bowed violins, and fingered pianos, as an army of vocalists beautifully harmonized. Composer Robert Ames faced the orchestra and arched his back as his flexed arms gracefully danced to the opus. Just before playing “All Animals,” Jónsi Birgisson (Sigur Rós) and film composer Alex Somers greeted the crowd at the Golden Gate Theatre. Somers asked everyone to find the Pop Rocks…

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Brandi Carlile Greek Theatre, Berkeley September 21, 2019 Photos by Nicole Baptista Elegant stage drapes backed Berkeley’s Greek Theatre—bright light morphed the color from blue to purple to red. There wasn’t a speck of grass at the top of the outdoor stone coliseum and chairs filled the floor. Looking back, a sea of eager faces glistened. It wasn’t long before curious eyes filled with excitement as Brandi Carlie popped out from the side of the stage. Sporting a shiny red suit and acoustic guitar, she commanded her space from the very start and opened with “Hold Out Your Hand” off…

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Korn and Alice in Chains Shoreline Amphitheatre September 4, 2019 Photos by Raymond Ahner Devoted is an understatement—nearly 20,000 cheering fans packed Shoreline Amphitheatre for a lineup straight out of 1999. Nu metal icons Korn paired perfectly with grunge legends Alice in Chains, even if you couldn’t picture the pair touring together in their heyday. Scuzzy opening chords of “Here to Stay” (Untouchables, 2002) crept across the crowd. Within seconds mini circle pits broke out across the grassy hilltop. Korn frontman Jonathan Davis stood behind his specially designed bio-mechanical mic stand, which was commissioned by the late H.R. Giger. Dancing…

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Burger Boogaloo Mosswood Park, Oakland July 6-7, 2019 Photos by Raymond Ahner and Jill Gerstenberger. All hail The Pope of Trash. Burger Boogaloo may be the only festival where fans are just as excited to see its host—cult director and author John Waters—as any band on the bill. The counterculture icon’s slender frame stood behind a podium on stage, his pencil-thin mustache outlined a grin as he welcomed each artist with some band bio. A slew of punks, goths, and rockabillies flooded Mosswood Park in Oakland for the festival’s 10th anniversary. Colossal honeycomb-patterned pinwheels changed colors as they spun in…

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Slash Warfield Theater July 15, 2019 Photos by Raymond Ahner Tilting her head back, she rocked side-to-side, bent her knees, clapped, and screamed. Her friend jumped up and joined her. Soon, they swayed together—their shrieks echoed throughout the balcony. The only thing louder was Slash’s 12-minute solo to “Wicked Stone.” The duo was on their feet for most of Slash’s two-hour set at The Warfield in San Francisco. The legendary guitarist kicked off the Living the Dream world tour with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. SLASH—in giant yellow letters—hovered over a skull in a top hat. Circles of light danced…

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Helms Alee Great American Music Hall May 28, 2019 Photos by Nicole Baptista Watching Helms Alee drummer Hozoji Matheson-Margullis do her thing is hypnotizing. Sitting behind a late-‘60s black Rogers kit—the same one her dad bought her when she was fifteen years old—Matheson-Margullis covered lead and backing locals while playing over rapidly shifting arrangements. Positioned center-stage at Great American Music Hall, an awestruck crowd stared as she ruthlessly beat the hell out of her drums. It looked and felt so natural. Her hands led the way; everything else just followed suit. Matheson-Margullis’ thundering tom-tom work (a tom-tom drum is a…

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Cypress Hill UC Theatre, Berkeley May 24, 2019 Photos by Jodi Lyon Clouds of thick smoke filled Berkeley’s UC Theatre. Lighters clicked, blazing the tips of blunts and spliffs everywhere. A giant psychedelic elephant lit up the stage — its colors slowly morphed from purple to green. And then, darkness. Opaque blue light shone upon superstar guest DJ Mix Master Mike. Standing in for Cypress Hill’s own DJ and producer, DJ Muggs, he deconstructed and mixed a slew of 90s jams. In between bass drops, he threw his hands in the air, smirked, and hunched over his turntables. The heavy…

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Eels Regency Ballroom May 13, 2019 Photos by Nicole Baptista Life is hard, and so am I. You better give me something, so I don’t die. It’s been 23 years since “Novocaine for the Soul” plunged its way into Eels fans’ hearts. The song’s opening lines still relate, and their live rendition gave the classic tune a much darker twist. If you asked the hundreds of lifelong enthusiasts that filled Regency Ballroom’s floor, they’d say it felt just about perfect. It’s likely that people waited for that song all night. It’s hard to know, considering the band has an eclectic…

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Gang of Four The Chapel February 9, 2019 “Gang of Four” projected just atop the red arch that mounts The Chapel’s stage in San Francisco. It was the only light illuminating the small room just before the band drenched the crowd in radiating guitar noise. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, fans jerked their knees as the drums crept in to renowned opening track, “Anthrax.” “And I feel like a beetle on its back / And there’s no way for me to get up / Love’ll get you like a case of Anthrax / And that’s something I don’t want to catch.” — Anthrax…

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Reverend Horton Heat Slim’s January 25, 2019 Photos by Raymond Ahner. The Reverend Horton Heat exude classic rock ‘n’ roll — they’re a whole lot of rockabilly, and a little bit punk, country, surf, and jazz. They’ve been riling up fans with thundering guitar runs for decades. It’s no wonder a sold-out crowd packed Slim’s in San Francisco for a night of rockabilly gospel. Looking around you’d swear it was 1950. People were dressed to the nines — retro pompadours, greased back hair, bandanas, pin skirts, swing dresses, and cuffed Levi’s. Frontman Jim Heath graced the stage donned in a…

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Melvins Cornerstone, Berkeley January 21, 2019 Photos by Elizabeth Gohr. You can spot King Buzzo from a mile away. Strapped with the only guitar on stage, Buzzo (Roger Osborne) gazed over the crowd through his frizzy, grey mop. Steven Shane McDonald and Jeff Pinkus plucked and pulled not one, but two bass guitars, and drummer Dale Crover pounded his kit from back-and-center. It’s been 27 years since Melvins played in Berkeley — their last gig was in 1992 at Berkeley Square, a small University Avenue club that shut down in the nineties but hosted legends like The Ramones. People chatted about…

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Andrew W.K. Cornerstone, Berkeley December 31, 2018 Photos by Nicole Baptista When Andrew W.K. says it’s time to party, you will party hard. If W.K. had one wish, it would be for all partygoers in all the land to throw caution to the wind and live their best life. The inspirational Party God gives you permission to be exactly who you are. He loves you, and he’s not ashamed to show it. Fans filled the floor on New Year’s Eve to soak up his joyful energy and ring in 2019 with a bang. An illuminated disco ball spun overhead, flecks…

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Thom Yorke Bill Graham Civic Auditorium December 15, 2018 Photos by Elizabeth Gohr. A sold-out crowd stood still, and thousands of wide eyes watched musical prodigy Thom Yorke grace Bill Graham Civic Auditorium’s stage. Standing behind an electric piano, his fingers slowly slid across the keys. Leaning into the mic, his haunting voice gripped you from the start. Opening with “Interference” (Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, 2014), he softly sang, “I don’t have the right / to interfere / to interfere.” Oh, but Mr. Yorke, please do. His voice pressed us to move closer. And one by one, fans freely fell down…

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Black Dahlia Murder UC Theatre, Berkeley November 30, 2018 Photos by Nicole Baptista. Melodic death metal brethren of The Black Dahlia Murder descended upon Berkley’s UC Theatre — frontman Trevor Strnad threw up a sleeved arm, smirked at fans, and started screeching into his mic. An already amped up, sweaty crowd roared, a swirl of bodies furiously circled and swung and bounced from one shoulder to another. People came out in droves to celebrate all things metal, enjoying six hours of music from an eclectic, jam-packed bill, which hosted the likes of TBDM, Pig Destroyer, Power Trip, Ghoul, and more.…

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