Local Musician Spotlight: Kate Possi

Ashlyn Giroux, Staff Writer

Blue-purple lights illuminate the backyard of the Drift Collective Arthouse as the sun continues to set and the air turns crisp. People huddle close together, packed like sardines as music fills the air and string lights hang overhead. It was noticeably chilly for a late September night in downtown Portsmouth, but that didn’t stop a large turnout from coming to support local musicians.

The Drift Collective’s original location, now known as the Drift Arthouse, held another show for their backyard series that has become a favorite of seacoast music fans. Showgoers milled about with drinks in hand, laughing, dancing and enjoying the evening with friends.       

Kate Possi and their band, returning for a second concert at the arthouse since summer, were among the musicians who performed on Friday, Sept. 23, along with Matriarch, Gr8 Dogs and Sumner Bright. The arthouse also debuted a new gallery featuring works by visual Portland-based artist, Trust in She.

Possi stands tall at 5’6”, centered in the front of their bandmates, strumming away on a tan and white Fender telecaster. Besides Possi on lead vocals and guitar, the group consists of Brodie Cavanaugh on drums, Miles Ahlstrom on guitar and Galen Walton on bass.

Despite being a newer group to the seacoast music scene, Possi and their bandmates have already played numerous shows in the area at the Press Room and the Stone Church as well as the arthouse.

Possi, a Massachusetts native and third year music education major at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), showcases their passion through their stage presence as well as their involvement at WUNH, the student-run radio station at UNH. 

They began their musical journey in the fourth grade playing cello and continued to grow their talents by performing in the school orchestra throughout middle and high school. In eighth grade, they picked up their first guitar and Possi’s mom surprised them with lessons from a professional teacher. This sparked their further dissent into a passion for music as they went on to play in a jazz combo in high school. At one point, Possi’s guitar teacher convinced them to begin singing as they strummed along; this led to them to form a duo with another friend who also played guitar and sang.

At 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 performing in any sense,” Possi said. “The adrenaline and the way you can get to share music and your art make me love doing it.”

Possi’s current band was formed this past spring, after Possi posted an Instagram story asking if anyone was interested in playing bass for an indie-folk group. This led initially to a duo and eventually the full group. Their first shows were at the Topanga Canyon makers market and a music festival at the Stone Church in May. The band was then asked by a well-known seacoast favorite, Sneaky Miles, to play at the Press Room with them in June. Possi said after these shows, people started to notice and recognize them as a favorable new band.

Besides playing in the band, Possi is currently the program director at WUNH. In addition to scheduling programs and monitoring on-air shows for sound quality, they also bring in other smaller musicians and groups to play live recordings in the studio. 

“It’s cool because it opens another door for smaller musicians and groups to come in and play. A lot of men and jam bands made up the scene and it wasn’t very diverse and that can be discouraging,” Possi said. 

Possi was also asked by a DJ if their band would want to play a live session radio show, which they did in August.

They noted that whilst they feel like the seacoast music scene does have a lot of LGBTQ+ people involved, it can also feel really dominated by straight men. They said that it can feel like people are constantly talking down to you, especially sound techs, but Possi is excited to get more diverse people and groups involved in the scene.

Elliott Smith, Big Thief and Adrianne Lenker are all notable influences on Possi’s musical style and performance presence. 

“My all time favorite is Elliott Smith,” said Possi. “I began listening in high school and now he’s always on in the background.” 

Possi noted that they admire 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 creating really “basic” music to really complex music, is inspiring. Other favorites of Possi’s include some 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 band, they were asked by another member of the seacoast music scene to come record some music together after the Friday night gig. Possi currently only has solo music recorded, but made it clear that trying to write and play new music can be a lot due to coursework for school being so consuming and tiring. Despite these factors, the group has continued to slowly churn out more originals over the past few months. At gigs, it is typical for the group to perform a mix of covers and originals. But, at recent shows they have been able to fill longer time slots with more originals and a few covers sprinkled throughout the set.

The band has a few gigs coming up with a show at the Stone Church on Thursday, October 13 as well as another gig at the Press Room in January. Possi’s music can also be found on Spotify. Further information about upcoming shows can be found on Possi’s Instagram.