CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- They've played in front of bigger crowds just a few blocks away - but the stage at the Paramount Theatre (123 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids) is a childhood vision come to life for Pork Tornadoes drummer Mike Schulte and his bandmates.
"The first concert I ever went to in my entire life - I was 13 years old - here," Schulte says, remembering details of the Collective Soul show. "I remember specifically sitting in the last row of the sold-out Paramount Theatre going, 'Man, wouldn't it be cool to play on that stage?'"
Nearly a quarter-century later, the Pork Tornadoes - comprised of Schulte, singer/guitarist Mason Greve, singer/keyboardist Jerry Lorenson, and bassist Cory Talbot - played their third show on the Paramount stage on Saturday, February 9.
The novelty isn't wearing thin, even if they're trying to make it happen.
"As soon as I walked in, I walked out to the middle of the stage and looked up and I tried to jokingly say, 'Oh, it's our third time. This is boring now,'" Greve recalls after Saturday afternoon's soundcheck, "but the view just kind of took over and I was like, 'Yeah, that's not even funny. It's not a funny joke. This is freakin' awesome.'"
A sold-out crowd of 1,700 took in the show on Saturday - far less than the record crowd of 4,568 that packed into McGrath Amphitheatre (475 1st St SW, Cedar Rapids) last June for the quartet's Uptown Friday Nights concert. It's not about numbers, according to Talbot.
"What's really cool about this place - and a theater in general - is...people are here and seated instead of standing and doing whatever at Uptown," he says. "It just creates a much more engaged atmosphere."
"There's only one thing to watch - and it's us," Lorenson adds. "That's pretty awesome. We have kind of a captive audience in that way."
The audience's actions captivated the band themselves during their first Paramount show in April 2017 as they covered the Coldplay song "Fix You."
"For me, it was a top ten moment of my life," Schulte says. "That song is just incredible. And to see everyone with their phones out and to hear Mason choke up on some words a little bit and try to hide it - 'I'm a manly man, but I'm kinda crying on this song.'"
Greve interrupts with a Napoleon Dynamite impression.
"Shut up, Mike. Don't tell everybody."
The band laughs - another moment of levity in a career that is becoming the dream that Schulte had in the last row of the Paramount as a fan all those years ago.
"Just to have all your friends and family and your parents in the crowd in a sold-out venue and everyone's having the best time and I'm on stage with my friends," he says, "you can't beat a moment like that."