WEERock: Silver Rail Bar & Grill

It was four years ago in 2020 when the world got quiet due to COVID-19 restrictions and live music had to be streamed rather than experienced in person. Years later, the return of live music has been a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the unbreakable bond between artists, venues, vital support staff and of course, audiences. From the long-standing entertainment spots like Oglebay, to recently opened venues like Waterfront Hall, we are beginning to feel the pulse of art, music and culture in our city again.

Thankfully, because of dedicated, hard-working, and passionate individuals in our community, there is a revival in Wheeling creating a music scene that has seen struggle even before 2020. We want to bring some attention to the places, people, and beautiful sounds that surround them in the up-and-coming live music industry in Wheeling with a new series: WEERock because well, you all really do ROCK!

In the first of our new series, we wanted to talk to the folks at Silver Rail Bar & Grill in South Wheeling. Owner Steven Mitchell bought and opened the venue in 2021 with a vision that continues to evolve despite any setbacks, lack of any outside funding, and the uncertainty of if events would profit. As Mitchell says, “pure grind.”

Graphic made by Silver Rail’s head of live entertainment and marketing, Jason Burge.

Spotlight on The Silver Rail Bar & Grill

“I grew up here in Wheeling and never imagined I’d be in the bar business,” owner Mitchell said with a laugh. “When the opportunity presented itself, I had to take a chance. While the bar most recently had been called Rae’s 29th Street Bar and Grill, prior to that it was known as the Silver Rail for nearly 30 years. When Steve and his wife Yvonne decided to open the bar, there was no doubt in their minds that they were going to call it “Silver Rail” because that was all they knew it as. 

Mitchell grew up in East Wheeling and had to cross the railroad tracks every day to get to baseball practice. “I remember the trains coming through 17th street so it was another no-brainer to go with a train as a logo for the Silver Rail,” said Mitchell. He got together with the talented Daniel Finsley, owner of Finsley Creative, to create what he calls “the best logo I could have imagined” for the reimagined Silver Rail Bar & Grill. 

Owner Steve Mitchell with local musician and songwriter Gage Joseph.

Once opened, the Silver Rail started hosting live music on Fridays. Since then, they have grown their lineup to to include DJs and occasional live bands on Saturdays, as well as introducing “Grub and Groove” nights on Thursdays. They also periodically have open mics on Sundays 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. which offer live entertainment at no cost to patrons and a place for talented individuals to showcase their skills and have a good time on a day where not much is going on. 

A Stage for Diverse Performances

The stage sits at the back of the venue, overlooking the entire space. It accommodates anything from solos or 5-piece bands (maybe more). They have a house PA (public address sound system) ready to go, for anyone that needs it. 

“It’s our passion for music and art itself that inspires and drives us. Many of us have spent ample time bouncing around and traveling the festival circuit,” said Jason Burge head of live entertainment and social media (a.k.a the conductor) at Silver Rail, “We’re thrilled to offer people a place to come and enjoy fantastic shows, good grub, and provide artists with a platform for live original music. We even play a little pool here and there. Our staff are all music lovers, and music has helped many of us through tough times. I think that’s pretty universal, though.”

Jason Burge and owner Steve Mitchell.

The word “universal” perfectly encompasses the type of entertainment they look for at Silver Rail. “We’ve featured everything from full jam bands to intimate solo performances, spotlighting both local artists and national touring acts. Since our opening, we’ve hosted a diverse array of genres ranging from bluegrass to hip-hop, country to rock. Each week brings something new. You never quite know what to expect. We’ve had bands on stage that have played some of the biggest stages, clubs, and festivals around like Lockn’, Back Home, Pittsburgh Arts Fest, Funky Fest, American Idol, and more,” said Burge. 

Since opening in 2021, Silver Rail has attracted new as well as experienced artists to become part of their scene. Adrian Niles has 30+ years of music experience, which includes playing with many great musicians, creating original songs, producing several albums, and touring and performing at venues locally and elsewhere. The New Age Adenas, with Eric Wellman, Mary Blake and Greg Pawlack, have been playing in and around the Wheeling area for about 11 years and are a local favorite with not only cover music, but original music as well. As Wellman says, “I think of it as a hobby that has become an insatiable habit,” as he has been working with music for 30 years.

Niles first came to Silver Rail with friendship and admiration for owner Steve Mitchell. He first met Steve in the Corner Pocket pool hall on McCulloch Street when he played music there a few years ago. “He’s a hard-working man who loves what he does. I appreciate his dedication to the billiards side and his willingness to welcome local artists in to perform,” said Niles. “With the addition of Jason Burge to the music side of things, Silver Rail has stepped up their game from billiards/music bar to billiards/music venue, in my opinion.”

Adrian Niles performing at Silver Rail Bar & Grill.

With over 60 years of combined music experience, Adrian Niles and Eric Wellman echo sentiments of respect and gratitude towards Steve Michell and his “conductor,” Jason Burge. “Steve and Jason Burge have done an amazing job bringing regional bands and talent to the Silver Rail stage, from Pittsburgh, Columbus, and southern West Virginia, as well as continuing to support local bands and talent,” said Wellman.

In addition to knowing how hard Michell works and is at Silver Rail constantly making sure everything runs smoothly, Niles acknowledges their Head of Live Entertainment and Marketing, too. “Jason has done a wonderful job booking and marketing entertainment. He’s bringing bands from other areas while keeping local bands booked as well. In addition, Jason is providing some of the best social media content in the area,” said Niles. 

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Maintaining an entertainment venue doesn’t come without struggles. There are so many things our local small business venues must cover especially if they want live music. This includes, but is not limited to expenses for staff, artist compensation, licensing requirement fees, maintaining and upgrading equipment, and marketing. When a venue charges you for a ticket, it is to cover the talent and all of the things that are needed to bring them to the venue in the first place. 

“Capturing community interest and engagement demands countless hours of marketing efforts. Hours scouting bands and trying to find the best acts around. It’s often overlooked how much time goes into scouting and booking bands. That’s why, when turnout falls short, it’s not just an economic setback; It’s emotionally taxing too. We put a lot into these shows and want the best for the crowd and the artist,” said Burge.

A packed house at Silver Rail Bar & Grill.

One may ask what inspires any venue to ensure entertainment happens. What makes it worthwhile despite any struggle? We asked the same thing.  

Silver Rail’s conductor Jason Burge finds a source for tenacity and pushing forward in the audience and the performers that bring them moving, transcendent experiences. “Seeing a crowd fully enjoying themselves dancing with abandon or witnessing tears of emotion during a song. Seeing couples rise from their seats to share a slow dance. And there are those instances when the performers themselves captivate us, stopping everyone in their tracks and transporting us somewhere else even for a second. These moments remind us why we’re here, making every effort worthwhile. We are lucky and grateful for each and every one of those moments and love those vibes.”

Fostering a Collaborative Music Scene

Much of the music and small business scene in Wheeling thrives on camaraderie and mutual support. We’ve interviewed a few venues, artists and amazing support staff that make the show happen for the WEERock series and it is evident that so many people are rooting for everyone else, too. While some may see competition, our Wheeling venues largely see an opportunity to contribute to a larger entity: A city-wide scene where there is always something to do with music, dancing, laughs, good food, and community. Raising the tide raises all ships, right?

“There are a lot of music venues popping up right now, and they’re all doing their own thing—and we love it. We think the music scene looks better than it has in a long time,” said Burge, “You have WesBanco [Arena] jumping back in the game, the Capitol doing great things, The Downs [Wheeling Island Casino] bringing some of the best tribute acts, and places like the Waterfront [Hall], Generations, and Bridge Tavern all doing good stuff. We’re on the smaller side of all those, but feel that the show on stage every week will be as good as any in town. There was a hole left when Down On Main Street closed, and we aren’t trying to be that but fill it and evolve past it into a great listening room to hear some of the best original music around. We love a party band and some covers, and we have our fair share of that too, but we try and live in giving a space for people to perform original music. We are never going to be at Madison Square Garden, but we just might be able to be like CBGB’s (legendary music venue in NYC), Bluebird Cafe (Nashville, TN), or Satellite Room ( Washington, DC).”

Their mission is to provide a fun hip spot where people can gather and escape for a few, take a deep breath, laugh with friends, grab some food, dance, sing, and jam out where everyone is welcome.  Eric Wellman says that the Silver Rail has a real neighborhood tavern feel where you can feel the friendly spirit of the patrons, pool players, bands, and spectators, all doing their thing. 

 “I’m honored to have the opportunity to host the two things that have carried me through the years: pool and live music,” said owner Steve Mitchell.

Adrian Niles so perfectly said, “When you put that one thing you need the most on the line, but you don’t fear losing it because success is in the doing; the Silver Rail has got heart.”

Interested in what Silver Rail Bar & Grill has going on? Check out their live music schedule, menu, pool tournaments and other happenings on Facebook or Instagram.

Upcoming Shows at The Silver Rail

  • April 5: Paging Dr. Moon, one of the hottest acts in Pittsburgh, will be gracing Silver Rail’s stage bringing a psychedelic rock show with some emo-pop undertones.
  • April 11: Ashley Best Live. Ashley has a mixed genre sound soaked heavily in country roots with a glimmer of rock.
  • April 12: Creek Don’t Rise – Voted the #1 band in WV by WV Living Magazine in 2019, will be performing. These guys are full of soul-dripping Appalachian blues.
  • April 18: Matt Smith – He’s been bounding good vibrations off the banks of the Valley for a long time and he’s coming to jam at Silver Rail.
  • April 19: Road Waves – One of Canada’s Hottest Jam Bands will be coming through the states for a 10th Anniversary tour with their first stop ever in WV.
  • April 25: Riding the Loop with Derrick Beattie. You may know him from Bucket of Puppies.  
  • April 26: Ezra Hamilton will be back showcasing a whole bag of new tricks and treats from the new album.
  • May 17: Megan Jeans Secret Family Band will be bringing some folk rock like no other. Megan once held a residency at CBGB’s and has played the Kennedy Center Millennium stage. 

• Crin Joy is originally from the Pittsburgh, PA area. She obtained a degree in psychology from Wheeling Jesuit University. She has spent 16 years of her adult life in Wheeling and loves putting her psychology and social work background into everything from operational and marketing consulting, event organizing and anything else that helps Wheeling continue to grow. She has spent over a decade involved in entertainment scenes and now loves cultivating experiences that bring people joy. When she’s not out and about or working on a project, she loves spending time at home with her boyfriend and many fur kids watching 90s movies or playing video games.