There's stiff competition at BuskerFest this Saturday; 11 bands take to the streets of East Town Village in Long Beach to play unplugged sets for a roving audience, with the goal of garnering the most wooden nickels for the grand prize–a $2,500 vinyl pressing.
Five-piece Two Guns has a secret weapon: an amplifier powered by solar energy, via a generator fashioned out of a six-pack cooler.
“Basically, it's a scaled down version of what your average hippie
would use to power their off-the-grid homes,” says Brad Babinski,
bassist of the now-defunct OC favorite Dusty Rhodes & The River Band,
who built the generator after doing eight months or so of Internet
research. “I didn't invent this setup or anything, it's actually very
common. What I did do is house it in a rad-looking Igloo cooler.”
“The generator I built has two 12-volt, 12-amp hour DC deep cycle batteries wired in parallel to make 24 amp hours. The simple equation Watts = Volts x Amps lets you know how much it will be able to power and for how long.
“For example, it will theoretically power my 120 watt bass amp for a full 24 hours (120 Watts = 120 Volts (AC) x 1 amp, therefore, since I have 24 amp hours and my load is 1 amp per hour, it'll work for a full day!),” he says.
That's a lot of math; for noobs like us, all you need to know is that it will power a 1000-watt PA for about an hour, but it'll power like a tiny radio for over a day.
Powering the contraption takes a full 24 hours of sunshine; about three to four days, because it has a small 5-watt solar panel. Called “trickle charging,” Babinski says “you just kinda leave it out in the sun in the backyard and it'll eventually get full.”
Babinski busks in Long Beach regularly (“I love to busk!”) and got the
idea for the amp while on 2nd St. jamming with a percussionist friend.
“I just couldn't hang volume-wise compared to his congas.” The system he built, Babinski says, powers his bass amp for a full day. It cost him $180 make, and weighs
only 25 lbs.
- If you want to make your own solar-powered amp, Babinski offers these sites:
Instructables.com – “They have some plans for very similar generators, mine isn't much different from this one.”
- Windsun.com – “This is great deep cycle battery info.”
- “I got the solar panel from Amazon.com, and the batteries from Allelectronics.com.”
Everest & Matt Vasquez headline Summer And Music's 3rd Annual BuskerFest. Jay Buchanan, PawnShop Kings & Korey Dane to open the Busking Stages, Saturday, 5 p.m., Linden St. between Broadway & 1st St., Long Beach