If you're going to spend 90 minutes or so on a Sunday night listening to some "sad folk music" then you probably couldn't get a better venue than the Waimate North Showground hall.

And if said sad folk stuff is being purveyed by Kiwi singer/songwriter Nadia Reid then it's actually pretty darn perfect.

The hall is a not-that-large wooden building that looks like it will creak and sway if the music's too loud, with timber beams, wooden floors and an outside toilet block about 20m away.

But on Sunday in the final act of the Bay of Islands' Upsurge Festival Reid's performance was superb, and shows why she's making waves with music critics across the globe.

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And to call this merely folk music does Reid a great disservice, with pop, country, rock and soul all in the mix, along with a fair dollop of humour.

The hall actually had pretty good acoustics so Reid's stunning voice didn't lose anything under the tin roof as she sang songs old and new and sometimes blue. She also revealed that she got married last Monday and her husband was selling the merchandise at the gig (surely a honeymoon to remember).

Her older songs were sublime - Arrow and the Aim, Track of the Time, Preservation, I come Home to You - while the new tracks she previewed hint at a spectacular future.

And it was a brave move to cover a song by Mazzy Star, with singer Hope Sandoval such a brilliant and distinct vocalist, but Reid's version of Fade Into You was wonderful. Her other cover was of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. I've heard many versions of the song - with some I'd rather not have heard - but Reid's version will live with me for all the right reasons.

It was a fantastic way to end Upsurge, festival director Sophie Kelly said.

Kelly said the entire 6-day festival was a huge success, with many of the events sold out.

''We're particularly happy with having the Upsurge Talks (a writers' programme featuring poets, journalists, doctors, a cook and a historian). The response from all those who attended them was amazing. It shows that people want to take part in these talks and are happy to share and discuss ideas and have conversations - that was outstanding.''

The Māori Sidesteps on stage.
The Māori Sidesteps on stage.

There was also a great response to the schools programme that saw many more young people involved in the festival than previous years. As well, there was a huge response to some of the free events.

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"Things like the Paihia Mural (painted on the seawall at the bluff by artist Erika Pearce) is beautiful and attracted hundreds of people along to watch it going up. And it's something that will remain in the community for a long time,'' she said.

Artist Erika Pearce with her mural painted on the sea wall at Paihia as part of the arts festival.
Artist Erika Pearce with her mural painted on the sea wall at Paihia as part of the arts festival.

''It was really good to be able to provide free and low-cost events for people and the public cam out to support them.''

Kelly is stepping down as festival director having run he first three of the biennial events, saying it was now time to move on.

''But Upsurge will be back bigger than ever in two years' time and the trust will be advertising for a new director soon - it's really 18 months worth of work needed.''

Lizzie Tollemache and David Ladderman performing one of the Seven Deadly Stunts.
Lizzie Tollemache and David Ladderman performing one of the Seven Deadly Stunts.
The New Zealand Dance Company perform Kiss The Sky at the Upsurge Festival.
The New Zealand Dance Company perform Kiss The Sky at the Upsurge Festival.
Free street theatre was popular during the Upsurge Festival.
Free street theatre was popular during the Upsurge Festival.