A band in demand

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Callie Chappell realizes she and her musical mates don’t dare bail on Blase Cafe

By Hannah Wallace

Let’s put to bed any rumors you may have heard: Siesta supergroup The Whole Band is staying put for its popular Friday-night gigs at Blasé Café.
Lead singer/guitarist Callie Chappell had considered taking a break after this year, her 10th-straight season playing live music at Blasé. But no sooner had she raised the possibility of retirement than a heartfelt backlash ensued — from her bandmates, like vocalist/guitarist Kevin Thompson, and from strangers among the Blasé crowds.
“I had just said it to a few people, but buzz gets around,” said Chappell. “People just kept walking up saying, ‘I heard you’re leaving!’ Kevin was like, ‘If you’re not doing it, I don’t want to do it.’ Our pedal steel player was like, ‘This is the happiest thing in my life.’ I could say that I was talked out of [retiring]. But it wasn’t that hard to talk me out of it.”

The Whole Band at the Blase Cafe before a Friday show. From left, Zack Yoder, Steve Apostoli, Callie Chappell, Dave Pierce, Kevin Thompson, and J.P. Coley. (submitted photo)

The Whole Band members only appear together on Friday nights at Blasé, where their performances of mostly upbeat ‘70s rock covers — and some original music mixed in —regularly draw hundreds. (While Chappell only performs these days for this one act, the band’s other musicians can be seen solo and in other projects around town throughout the week.)
In fact, the Whole Band can trace its earliest origins back to the Blasé. A decade ago, Chappell, drummer Steve Apostoli and renowned “gypsy violinist” Willie Royal played gigs as a trio, drawing decent crowds that Chappell still attributes to Royal’s talent. “I always just figured it was Willie’s playing,” she laughed.
They met bassist J.P. Coley while recording an album and, when Royal retired due to health issues, the remaining bandmates began searching for their ideal replacement. “I said we need to find a guitar player that can play killer guitar solos and leads, who can sing harmony, and who’s easy to get along with,” said Chappell.
Within a month, Apostoli texted her, “I think we just found our guy.” It was Kevin Thompson. And with the addition of pedal steel guitarist Dave Pierce, the five of them formed the Whole Band’s original iteration for the first couple of years. Then a young phenom guitar player named Zack Yoder asked if he could “sit in” with them sometime. In his early 20s at the time — much younger than the others — Yoder nevertheless blew them away with his seemingly effortless flair.
Now all they needed was a name. For almost a whole season, the six of them played every Friday-night gig with a different, outrageous moniker. (Chappell rejected “Super Callie and the Fragilistics” outright.)
Not every band member could make every Friday-night gig. But one evening as they were setting up in Blasé Café’s spacious outdoor patio, a fan remarked, “Hey, the whole band is here!” Chappell remembered. “We started laughing and said, ‘That’s our name!’”
Now the co-leaders of the group, Thompson and Chappell call each other “musical best friends.” They choose which songs to cover, help to create the arrangements, and each contribute original music, too.
The Whole Band’s repertoire spans a gamut of ‘70s-era rock, including the Rolling Stones and Beatles, the Doobie Brothers, the Steve Miller Band, Fleetwood Mac and more.
A fan favorite is their cover of “Purple Haze,” with Thompson playing Jimi Hendrix’s guitar parts on mandolin. They also do a bluegrass version of “Freebird,” for when someone inevitably shouts out the request. “We set it up as a joke, and then we blow the socks off it,” said Chappell. “With a lot of what we do, it’s not just that’s such a cool song, it’s, ‘Listen how these guys play this cool song.’”
The talent of each of the musicians, highlighted by the songwriting and arranging chops of Chappell and Thompson, undoubtedly contribute to the intense draw of the Whole Band. But their shared camaraderie may be the secret magic that has turned Friday nights at the Blasé Café into sprawling block parties.
And certainly that camaraderie — with each other, with their audiences, and even with the management at Blasé Café — is what will keep the Whole Band coming back for the foreseeable future.
“We have such respect and admiration for each other as musicians,” said Chappell. “We’re always happy to see each other, every single week. We get done with a song and we’re laughing and shaking our heads. We’ll just be so tickled by how much fun that was. Why would I want to stop with such a happy thing?”

Hannah Wallace
Author: Hannah Wallace

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