Blue-purple lights illuminate the backyard of the Drift Collective Arthouse as the sun continues to set and the air turns chilly. People huddle together, packed like sardines as music fills the air and string lights hang overhead. It was noticeably chilly for a late September night in Portsmouth city centre, but that didn’t stop a strong turnout from coming out in support of local musicians.
The Drift Collective’s original location, now known as Drift Arthouse, hosted another show for their backyard series that has become a favorite with shoreline music fans. Spectators thronged with drinks in hand, laughing, dancing and enjoying the evening with friends.
Kate Possi and their band, back for a second concert at the arthouse since the summer, were among the musicians who performed on Friday September 23, alongside Matriarch, Gr8 Dogs and Sumner Bright. The arthouse has also launched a new gallery featuring work by Portland-based visual artist Trust in She.
Possi stand tall at 5’6″, centered in front of their bandmates, strumming on a tan and white Fender telecaster. Besides Possi on vocals and guitar, the band consists of Brodie Cavanaugh on drums, Miles Ahlstrom on guitar and Galen Walton on bass.
Although a newer band to the shoreline music scene, Possi and their bandmates have already played many shows in the Press Room and Stone Church area as well as the art and essay.
Possi, a Massachusetts native and third-year music education major at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), shows her passion through her stage presence as well as her involvement in WUNHUNH’s student-run radio station.
They began their musical journey in fourth grade playing the cello and continued to develop their talents performing in the school orchestra throughout middle school and high school. In eighth grade, they picked up their first guitar, and Possi’s mother surprised them with lessons from a professional teacher. This sparked their newfound dissent into a passion for music as they continued to play in a high school jazz combo. At one point, Possi’s guitar teacher convinced them to start singing while they strummed; this led them to form a duo with another friend who also played guitar and sang.
During performances, they noted that seeing people engaged and moving to their music was very encouraging and reassuring as a performer.
“I always look forward to playing in every way,” Possi said. “The adrenaline and how you can share music and your art makes me love doing it.”
Possi’s current band was formed last spring, after Possi posted an Instagram Story asking if anyone was interested in playing bass for an indie-folk band. This led initially to a duo and eventually to the full band. Their first shows were at the Makers Market in Topanga Canyon and a music festival at the Stone Church in May. The band were then invited by a well-known Coast favourite, Sneaky Miles, to play with them in the press room in June. Possi said that after these gigs, people started to notice them and recognize them as a new supportive band.
In addition to playing in the band, Possi is currently program director at WUNH. In addition to programming programs and monitoring the sound quality of live broadcasts, they also bring in other musicians and smaller bands to play live recordings in the studio.
“It’s cool because it opens another door for smaller musicians and bands to come and play. A lot of men and jam bands made up the scene and it wasn’t very diverse and that can be daunting,” Possi said.
A DJ also asked Possi if their band wanted to play a live radio show, which they did in August.
They noted that while they feel like the Shoreline music scene has a lot of LGBTQ+ people involved, it can also feel really dominated by straight men. They said it can seem like people are constantly talking to you, especially sound technicians, but Possi is excited to involve more diverse people and groups in the scene.
Elliott Smith, Big Thief and Adrianne Lenker are all notable influences on Possi’s musical style and presence.
“My all-time favorite is Elliott Smith,” Possi said. “I started listening in high school and now it’s always in the background.”
Possi noted that they admired Elliott Smith for “his versatility and creativity on the guitar”. They added that seeing Smith create songs with so much complexity, and the ability to go from making really “basic” music to really complex music, is inspiring. Other Possi favorites include pure folk artists like John Welch and Tom Waits as well as indie-folk artists like Big Thief and Julia Jacklin.
Possi noted that they are not very consistent with how and when they decide to create new music or work on current songs. As a group, another member of the Seacoast music scene asked them to come and record music together after the Friday night concert. Possi currently only records solo music, but has made it clear that trying to write and perform new music can be a lot because classes for school are so long and tiring. Despite these factors, the band has continued to slowly produce more originals over the past few months. At concerts, it is typical for the band to perform a mixture of covers and originals. But, at recent shows, they’ve been able to fill longer slots with more originals and a few covers sprinkled throughout the set.
The band have a few gigs coming up with a show at the Stone Church on Thursday October 13th as well as another gig at the Press Room in January. Possi’s music can also be found at Spotify. Further information on upcoming shows can be found on Possi’s instagram.