The Wee Lollies – Tsar Bomba

While you weren’t paying attention, my band, The Wee Lollies, released our first full length album, “Tsar Bomba“. It was officially released May 14th and has slowly trickled out to all of the online music shops (iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby, etc.)

“That was a long time ago, Shane. Why the heck are you just now getting around to blogging about it?!”

Good question. And I don’t really have a good answer for you. I’ve been distracted I suppose. Anyway, if you like guitar driven rock music, give it a spin. And let me know what you think.

Also, we’ve been rehearsing a bit as of late. Keep your eyes on www.theweelollies.com for updates. We’ve got one or two shows in the works.

Improving the SodaStream

Last Christmas, Leora gave me a SodaStream. Before then, I hadn’t even heard of the thing. And for someone with my level of soda addiction, it seemed like the greatest, most magical gift in the world.

If you’ve never used a SodaStream before, the idea is pretty simple. You attach a CO2 tank to your SodaStream, fill up a liter sized bottle of water, attach the bottle to the SodaStream, press a button a few times, and BAM! – you have soda. “What about flavorings?” you ask. SodaStream sells some fantastic soda mixes that are remarkably close to their major brand counterparts. And I do mean remarkably. SodaStream’s Fountain Mist (or, as I call it, Mountain Fist) and Orange mixes are two of my favorites. I often have a hard time telling them apart from their major label counterparts.

The SodaStream devices vary in price, but they’re not terribly expensive. I think mine cost around $80 or so. The mixes are also pretty cheap – usually around $4.99 for a 12 liter supply depending on where you buy them. The most painful thing about the SodaStream is the CO2. The 14.5 oz. CO2 tanks are small – I get about 3-4 weeks of use out of one. And because the tanks use a proprietary fitting, you can’t just take them to just any ole place to have them refilled. You either have to either buy a brand new tank for around $35 or exchange your old tank for a new one at around $15. Doing the math for a year, that’d put me at around $195 on CO2 alone.

There is a cheaper way to deal with the whole CO2 issue I’ve discovered. Not long after I exchanged the first CO2 tank, I spent a little time learning about gas, tank fittings, and a bit about home brewing, which has a few things in common with home soda making. I decided to take the plunge and “augment” my SodaStream. I purchased a 10 lb. aluminum tank and a special fitting for hooking the thing up. I made a small modification to the SodaStream so that I could hook up the new tank. I also had the 10 lb. tank filled with CO2 for less than $20. I suspect it’ll be a while before I need to worry about running out of CO2.

If you’re thinking about doing the same with your SodaStream, here are some things to keep in mind.

Tanks – You’ll want to make sure you purchase a beverage grade CO2 tank with a CGA 320 fitting.

I came across a lot of conflicting information online concerning what qualifies as a beverage grade tank and whether or not it even matters. It does matter. Beverage grade tanks are made from aluminum. Tanks made from any other material may introduce contaminates and, in the case of lead-lined tanks, may even pose health risks. Beverage grade aluminum tanks aren’t hard to find. I found mine on Amazon for around $80.

The CGA 320 fitting is a very commonly used fitting found on CO2 tanks. Home brewing places like to deal with kegerator-style CO2 tanks, which also use this type of fitting. There’s nothing preventing you from using another type of connector. But it may be harder to find someone who can fill up your tank. It may be even harder to find the right adapter for connecting the tank to the SodaStream.

Connectors – I don’t have much to say about this except that a quick Google search will turn up a number of vendors that sell CGA-320-to-SodaStream connectors. I bought the Freedom One model from CO2Doctor. My experience with these folks was pretty awesome. They were quick to answer my questions and help me troubleshoot my hookup issues. I had my tank hooked up and working in no time.

  

CO2 – Finding a local place to fill my tank took a little bit of work, but not much. I started out calling the restaurant supply places and beverage distribution companies, all of which turned out to be dead ends. I then talked to a couple of shops that specialize in home brewing supplies. They were able supply me with CO2, but only if I agreed to exchange my empty tank for a full one and they wanted to charge me $30 to do it. In the end, I found a local welding supply company who agreed to fill the tank for $18. That’s a lot of CO2 for cheap.

Hooking It All Up – Because my SodaStream didn’t provide a good place for me to run the hose through, I had to drill out a tiny hole in the base so that the machine could sit right on top of the hose. The SodaStream fitting can be hand tightened, but it’s very important that you tighten the fitting connecting to the CO2 tank with a wrench. Otherwise, you’ll leak gas all over the place. Hand-tight isn’t enough.

  

  

Once everything is hooked up and ready to go, you’ll find that you’ll need to experiment a little bit to find the right number of presses to get the carbonation you’re accustomed to. The pressure coming into the SodaStream from the new tank will be different than from the original SodaStream tank. So the recommended formula of three farty sounds probably won’t result in something you’ll be happy with. For my setup, I usually pump it until I get the three sounds, lift the bottle to release the pressure, and pump it again for three more sounds. Also, be careful when you add the mix. If you go carbonation crazy like me, you’ll find adding in some of those mixes quickly can result in a soda volcano.

Have fun and good luck!

Introducing Roadie Assist

The Wee Lollies played shows for the better part of 2012. And there are few signs that we’ll be slowing things down for 2013. For all of last year, when it came to carting around all of my gear I frequently found myself in checklist hell. Every time we’d have a rehearsal or play a show, I’d tear off a little slip of paper and construct a gear checklist based on whatever old checklists happened to be littering my desk (and there were many!). I’d consult the list as I loaded all of my gear before a show to make sure I had everything. And then I’d consult it again after the show to make sure I didn’t leave anything behind. Many shows required different setups. And sometimes old gear was retired and new gear was added. So the checklists weren’t always the same. But as you might imagine, they were similar.

In the fall of last year, I got the idea for a checklist app for gigging musicians. I wanted to ditch the Post It notes and use something a bit more structured. I wanted something that’d allow me to record the use of gear, keep track of lost items, and be better organized when it came to keeping track of shows. Granted, there are already a LOT of general purpose Android checklist apps on the market. But I felt like there really needed to be an app specifically targeted for gigging musicians. So I decided to build one.

Thus Roadie Assist was born.

Roadie Assist is a fairly simple app. It allows you to supply information for all of your gear and upcoming gigs and then lets you associate that gear with gigs. Each gig has a load-in and load-out checklist that let’s you ensure you leave what you came with. If you lose an item, Roadie Assist will keep track of that too. If you supply address and contact information for a gig, Roadie Assist will allow you to navigate, email, or dial a number right from the app (assuming the device supports any of those features). And for quick gig creation, Roadie Assist features templates that allow you to create predefined gear lists that can be used as starting points for new gigs. I often use the template feature to differentiate between acoustic-only shows and shows where I need to haul in my electric guitars and effects.

If Roadie Assist interests you, pop over to the Google Play store and install it to your Android device. It’s only 99 cents. And if you find bugs or have ideas for “must-have” features, be sure to let me know!

-Shane