The best concerts leave memories, mosh scars and minor hearing loss, says Chris Schulz.

It was cheap, nasty, and the height of discomfort. Back in 1995, the overnight train from Wanganui to Auckland was a nine-hour endurance test that included grumpy conductors, killer leg cramps and frequent bouts of motion sickness.

Needless to say, the three of us barely slept a minute of that trip. But we didn't care. My best friends and I were travelling to our first concert: Pearl Jam's epic two-night stint at Auckland's Mt Smart Supertop, a gig that has gone down as a generation-defining event for those in their mid-30s.

We'd spent months convincing our nervous parents, and even longer saving our pocket money, but when Eddie Vedder and the boys arrived on stage at the height of their grunge superpowers, bringing out Tim and Neil Finn for that wine-swilling encore, it was worth everything we'd gone through.

It was a milestone moment for me. I loved that concert so much - not just the performance, but the anticipation involved in getting to the venue, talking to fellow fans outside the show, buying T-shirts and moshing for the first time - that the only overseas travelling I've done since then has been to see bands or attend festivals.


Yes, I've done a bit of sightseeing on days off. But I'd much prefer to combine travel with a concert or three than indulge in typical tourist traps. There's something about seeing a band in a foreign city, with fans singing along in different accents, drinking weird festival beers and trying crazy food, that makes a trip that much more special.

It sure beats wandering down to Vector Arena, paying $9 for warm beer and $5 for a hot dog then heading home feeling ripped off afterwards. Or being penned into a caged drinking enclosure at one of Auckland's otherwise excellent festivals.

If you hate those cages too, it's worth noting that most overseas music festivals are cage-free, queues for drinks are rare, and you can take them anywhere you'd like to - including mosh pits. I've never seen any alcohol-induced issues at those events either. Refreshing, huh?

These trips have resulted in some magic moments. At Lollapalooza, a mate and I scored free tickets to a secret, sold-out midnight show by Band of Horses. We were so tired we could barely stand, but it's one of my favourite concert experiences ever.

Then there was the time I rocked out with Jay-Z at Palm Springs' Coachella festival. I was so involved in the show I missed my ride home and spent four hours walking to the hotel, thanks to a lack of taxis and a dead cellphone.

Actually, that wasn't so fun - but it made for a great story, and it hasn't deterred me from my passion.

I'm already packing my bags in anticipation of Sydney's upcoming Vivid festival: The arts, music, lights and cultural festival delivered Kraftwerk and Bobby Womack last year, and this year's line-up is even better, with alt-rockers the Pixies and hip-hop songstress Lauryn Hill performing in the confines of the Opera House.

Best of all, you don't have to take an overnight train to Sydney. I'm so there.

Getting there: Between Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Emirates and Qantas there are up to a dozen daily flights to Sydney from Auckland.

Further information: The Vivid Festival takes place in Sydney, across various venues, from May 23 to June 9. This year's line-up includes the Pixies, Lauryn Hill, Anna Calvi, St Vincent and Midlake. There are also art installations and lighting events around the city during the festival.