"Happiest sight in recent memory: Eve reaching over to turn up her amp."
That was the joyous observation of a fan on the last Thursday in June as Eve Monsees and Mike Buck began to blast through another livestream set from their garage. The dynamic duo, essential fixtures of the iconic downtown club Antone’s, took their blues-rockin’ energy online shortly after the coronavirus pandemic began.
Their glorious electric guitar-and-drums racket is refreshingly different from the majority of livestreams that have sprung forth from the Austin music community since mid-March. Not surprisingly, solo singer-songwriter streams are most common, because the simple setup is readily adaptable to an online presentation. But Monsees and Buck have found that their two-piece electric shows are also well-suited to streaming.
Co-owners of Antone’s Record Shop, the couple comprise half of the band Eve & the Exiles, along with guitarist Thierry LeCoz and bassist Pat Collins. Their regular gig before 2020 had been Wednesday evenings at Antone’s. At home, they’d often practice in their garage, which has become their livestream headquarters. It’s not often that fans get to hear garage rock played in its native habitat.
Silver streamers, left over from a wedding gig, hang behind Buck’s drums. Posters of the Rolling Stones and Buck’s daughter’s band Sailor Poon decorate the walls. In the corner, tall cases of LPs and CDs hold the musical treasures that overflow from their shop stock. "Records everywhere we look," Monsees says with a smile.
"We’re really lucky to have the space that we use," she adds. "There’s nothing wrong with just playing in your living room, but since we have drums, it's nice to make it look a little more like a nightclub."
Our Austin360 Residency of the Month for July, the Monsees & Buck shows start at 7 p.m. every Thursday at facebook.com/eveandtheexiles and run for about an hour. This month will bring five shows, with July 2 falling on a Thursday. Monsees and Buck say they’re still working on ideas for this month’s livestreams. Sometimes they just wing it, but they’ve had some well-received theme nights. Last week, they played the 2015 Eve & the Exiles album "You Know She Did" in its entirety.
Other livestreams during the spring included regional sets focusing on the music of Louisiana, Texas and Chicago. When Little Richard died in May, they played a full show of the legendary rock & roll pioneer’s music. They did a similar tribute a couple of weeks later after the death of Phil May, singer for British band the Pretty Things, folding it into an already planned Rolling Stones night on the week that the Stones had been scheduled to play in Austin.
"When you have some sort of extra incentive for people to come out — you know, ‘Hey, we're doing this special thing’ — it seems to get people's attention," Monsees said, adding that the theme shows have been a learning opportunity for the couple as well. "We’ve heard Little Richard songs forever, but I couldn't tell you all the words to all those songs. So it required learning some lyrics."
Other nights are more random, a mix of their own tunes and favorite covers. "We try to do as many originals as we can," Buck says, "but there's tons of songs we love, and we love playing them. That’s how it is in our club shows, too."
In addition to fronting Eve & the Exiles, Monsees also is a key member of the Bluebonnets, an all-female group that features guitarist Kathy Valentine and bassist Dominique Davalos, plus a couple of rotating drummers. Her legacy in Austin music looms large: It was Monsees who encouraged a young Gary Clark Jr. to join her in venturing out to Austin nightclubs when they were grade-school pals. (When Clark won his first Grammy in 2014, he thanked her on the live TV broadcast.)
RELATED: Gary Clark Jr.: ’Talk to your people and then raise your children up’
Buck, meanwhile, has been a mainstay of Austin music since the 1970s. The drummer for the renowned Fabulous Thunderbirds from 1976 to 1979, he later became a prime mover in the LeRoi Brothers and has played with many local blues and rock acts over the decades. He’s also the host of Sun Radio’s "Blue Monday" program, which airs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. weekly.
Buck’s the less talkative member of the duo, but he has a sharp wit. When their dog Otis chimes in during our interview and it’s suggested that Otis might have some one-syllable comments worth including, Buck deadpans, "Kind of like me."
"Ruff," Otis agrees.
A little more about Otis. Just 5 months old, he was adopted in April, though the couple’s plans to get a dog predated the pandemic, as they’d filled out an application in January. Soon he became a topic of conversation in the lively chats that run alongside the Facebook livestream onscreen.
"It’s pretty hilarious," Monsees said. "We talked about him a little bit just because he was a new puppy in the house, and we posted some photos on Facebook." One classic shot shows Otis helping to fill out the livestream set list.
"We would have him make appearances," Buck adds, "but he would tear up things up while we’re playing."
When they’re not hanging with Otis at home, they might be up at Antone’s Record Shop, helping to fulfill online and curbside orders. Keeping the store going has been a challenge during the pandemic.
"It's really difficult, for sure," Monsees said. "But so many people have been supporting us and continuing to shop through those other means. We're getting calls every day from people; they're wanting to come in and browse and touch stuff. We’ve missed being able to go out and do that, too. But we're trying to keep everything contactless.
"Business is way down, and from pretty much everyone else I've talked to, it sounds like we're kind of on track where everyone else is. We're making enough to keep it going, but not much else right now. But we’re super grateful for the community's support."
Monsees says they might keep the livestreams going even after the pandemic passes. It’s one of the reasons they settled on Thursday for their streams, as it won’t conflict with Wednesdays whenever they can return to Antone’s.
"We don't know what the future looks like as far as when we're going to get back into the clubs," she said. "But Thursday was a night that we typically were off, so we figured that if we want to keep doing these, if we do get our regular residency going again, we would still have this as an option."
More Austin360 Residency of the Month livestreams:
April: DJ Mel’s Living Room Dance Party is Austin’s hottest social-distancing get-down
May: Ulla brings the sound of Ireland to Austin