Noah Diaz woke up at 6 a.m., exhilarated to attend his first music festival and finally see Travis Scott perform live.

He and his buddies arrived at the Astroworld Festival grounds at 8 a.m. on Nov. 5, only to find a rowdy crowd already pulling down barricades and rushing past the covid checkpoint. A girl’s foot was stuck between metal bars of a barricade as people “were running over her.” Someone began igniting small fireworks. A police officer discharged his Taser into the sky.

Diaz felt the first pangs of anxiety. It was 10 a.m.

“It felt doomed from the start,” said the 22-year-old Houston resident.

By the time Scott took the stage that night, Diaz felt claustrophobic. Crowd surges, often egged on by Scott himself, lifted Diaz, a 6-foot-2, 280-pound former high school football player, off his feet. He struggled to breathe and watched people slip under the crowd, pinned to the ground.

“It was almost like you were in a wave pool … [but] drowning in human bodies,” he said.

After the show, Diaz ripped up a painting of a previous Astroworld festival that a friend had painted years ago. He threw his dirty shoes in the trash and deleted all of Scott’s music from his phone. “I don’t want to experience a trigger that makes me relive those events,” he said. (Scott has said he was “devastated” and working with authorities investigating what went wrong.)

So far, 10 people have died as a result of those crowd crushes. Diaz can’t believe the number is so low.

“After all that, I’m done with festivals,” he said. “I don’t want to leave anything up to chance, to say, ‘Hopefully they care about me.’ ”

By their nature, music festivals run the risk of turning into miserable experiences, if not outright dangerous ones. The original 1969 Woodstock, which has come to symbolize the idyll all fests aspire to, was rife with issues: bands performed hours late, an anarchist group tore down fencing and two people died, one run over by a tractor. Thirty years later, the 1999 version devolved into riots that led to three deaths, 44 arrests and widespread reports of sexual assault.

Nonetheless, fans flock to them. Roughly 32 million people, more than the population of Texas, attend music festivals each year.

“For many young people, it’s a formative event,” said Gina Arnold, author of “Half a Million Strong: Crowds and Power From Woodstock to Coachella.” And others “go to music festivals to participate in history. They want to be part of something that they can historically say, ‘I was a part of it. I went to Woodstock. I was at Astroworld.’”

They’ve become the United States’ premiere live music experience, fueled by the creation of California’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 1999, Tennessee’s Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in 2002 and the revival of Chicago’s Lollapalooza in 2003.

And most festivals run smoothly enough. The ones that don’t often share similar problems: Insufficient security. Poor crowd control. Lack of planning. A shortage of water.

“There’s always been tension between promoters, organizers or artists wanting to maximize profits and an audience that just wants to have a good time,” said Steven Hyden, who chronicled the 20th anniversary of Woodstock ’99 in his podcast “Break Stuff: The Story of Woodstock ’99.”

One issue, Arnold said, is that unlike in Europe, where music festivals have been part of the cultural landscape for decades, the United States has been in a 20-year mad dash to build the infrastructure to support hundreds of new fests, much of which is done in a “slipshod” way.

The Fyre Festival in 2017, which proved to be such a disaster it inspired competing documentaries on Netflix and Hulu, highlighted this principle to an absurd degree. Fans arrived to Fyre, which was billed as “two transformative weekends” on a “remote and private” island in the Bahamas, only to find boxed cheese sandwiches, what appeared to be “FEMA tents” and headliner bands pulling out at the last minute — along with barely any festival staff (or, frankly, any festival). It was later described as “nothing more than a get-rich-quick scam.”

Adding to the issues is that festivals can be antithetical to enjoying live music if the endgame is to assemble as many bodies as possible into a confined space — on a budget.

This year’s Virginia-based, independently run Blue Ridge Rock Festival, which hosted the likes of Rob Zombie and Limp Bizkit in September, inspired more than 8,000 attendees to form the Facebook group Screwed by Blue Ridge Rock Festival. Complaints ranged from a shortage of parking spaces to a lack of accessibility for those with disabilities. Meanwhile, TomorrowWorld, an American spinoff of the wildly popular Belgian electronic dance music festival TomorrowLand, lasted only three years. Attendees of the 2015 festival in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga., reported water and food shortages and that organizers weren’t prepared for inclement weather.

If festivals have such a penchant for unpleasantness — not to mention danger — then why go in the first place?

Benjamin Cramer, a 27-year-old Baltimore resident, has attended fests across the world for a decade and has no plans of stopping — though he knows how bad things can get. He loves “the freedom of mobility I have when I’m in a big festival where I can move around to different stages, explore different music.”

His personal weekend from hell took place in September at the Elements Festival in Lakewood, Pa.

Cramer and his friends waited hours in the parking lot for buses to take them the three or so miles to the festival grounds, which included a 150-acre field with a lake for attendees to cool off in.

But once they arrived, water was difficult to find, and food vendors quickly ran dry — Cramer and his friends subsisted on peanut butter and jelly for three days. The lake was closed. Porta Potties overflowed with human waste. Staff was scant, at best. More troubling, Cramer said, security and advertised covid precautions were scarce.

But the horrible conditions brought people together. Jared Barnhart, a 25-year-old Ithaca, N.Y., resident and a Type 1 diabetic, attended Elements specifically because of the promised covid protocols — everyone was to be vaccinated or tested — only to be dismayed that they weren’t followed. He’ll never attend it again, describing it the way one might a war.

“People bonded over the trauma of standing in a field for up to 16 hours,” Barnhart said. “We knew without saying what we’d all gone through and what was still in store for the weekend.”

After he complained, Cramer said, festival organizers offered him a 33 percent discount on their next event, which he turned down. When he finally left, he said, “All we could do is laugh and say, ‘Never again.’ ”

Not Elements, at least.

“I’m very concerned for this industry,” he said. “If concerts become a public health concern, we’re going to lose access to one of the most wonderful things about our country: that we have such a diverse and wide availability of different types of music in different places.”

Even when festivals take the proper precautions, however, things can get out of hand. Hyden, the cultural critic, pointed to Roskilde Festival in Denmark in 2000, where nine people were trampled to death during a Pearl Jam performance.

The festival had reduced attendance to prevent overcrowding. Metal poles were erected around the ground to prevent crowd surges.

“They were trying to do a good festival, and they still had one of the worst tragedies ever,” Hyden said. In all these instances, he contemplates the “unanswerable question” of what is the “X-factor of what drives people to act in a way that potentially hurts other people in the audience? That’s, I think, harder to contemplate, that darker question.”

Things aren’t always great for the artists, either. Damon Krukowski, who toured the major festival circuit a few decades ago as part of the influential indie rock band Galaxie 500, said some of the massive European festivals they played — such as Glastonbury in England and Roskilde — “were among my least favorite gigs we ever had. … They were nightmares to me, personally.”

“You’re in a bubble on that stage,” Krukowski said. “You actually don’t hear or even see the audience. You’re in a weird, cut-off world.”

The 58-year-old rocker has become a vocal critic of the festival circuit and said artists should demand higher standards, including better pay.

“I have never had a friend in a band who said to me, ‘these are my dream gigs,’ ” said Krukowski. But without these shows, it can be difficult for artists, beyond megastars like Travis Scott, to make a middle-class living. “Festivals suck money out of a larger system [of clubs and independent venues] and concentrate it.”

Whatever their problems, festivals aren’t going anywhere. And neither are their fans.

Cooper Irwin found himself trapped in the same Astroworld crowd as Noah Diaz. Unlike Diaz, Irwin is a veteran of music festivals, drawn to “the community and the crowd.” During his time at the University of Texas, the now 26-year-old Austin resident regularly attended South by Southwest and Austin City Limits. He’s since branched out to Governor’s Ball in New York City and Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas.

“When it’s special, it’s special. You end up meeting really cool people,” he said. “And I love the ability to see five or 10 of your favorite artists in one weekend.”

From the moment Irwin and his girlfriend arrived at Astroworld, though, something felt off. He only noticed two water stations for the approximately 50,000 attendees. It took them 45 minutes to fill their bottles. He also found it odd that Scott had his own stage. At most music festivals, multiple acts play at the same time — on various stages throughout the day — to assist with crowd control.

As Scott’s performance started, panic set in and Irwin and his girlfriend tried to push their way out of the crowd to no avail. Eventually, they stumbled upon a pile of bodies on the ground, which included one unresponsive girl. They tried to give her CPR, but there were too many people packed in to do it properly.

Looking back, Irwin knows they were lucky. Between them, he and his girlfriend lost two shoes and a phone. While attempting find the missing phone, the pair ended up finding six. Two belonged to people he later learned had died at the festival.

The experience has left him shaken, but he doesn’t plan to give up music fests. They’re too special.

“I have a little bit of PTSD and a little bit of anxiety thinking of going into a big crowd again, but I’m going to work through that,” Irwin said. “I still love the overarching idea of festivals.”