Slowly but surely, The Rail Pub, Savannah’s favorite dive bar, has been ramping its return to live music.


Since mid-August, the beloved watering hole has hosted solo and duo acts and even a test run featuring a full-band. Back in September, local bands Ember City and Whaleboat teamed up for a Thursday night show that went off safely without a hitch.


And now they’re back — once again, Ember City and Whaleboat are together Thursday, Nov. 5, rocking The Rail, both performing in full lineups.


Melissa Swanson and Trina Brown, owners of The Rail since 1995, thought they’d seen it all their in twenty-five years running the pub, but never did they anticipate anything as upending as 2020. Swanson, who’s genuinely committed to supporting live music, admits being apprehensive to jumping back in.


"It’s scary," explains Swanson, "because no matter what you do people perceive some kind of danger, but we have music outside at reduced capacity, people are distanced, and they have to have masks."


For the Ember City and Whaleboat show, Swanson strategically chose a Thursday night because she felt it best for business and the community. "It’s the new normal, not to be too busy and pose any risk," said Swanson. "An early show with two full bands on a Thursday night should bring in just enough people, but not too many."


In the era of COVID-19, supporting Savannah’s local scene in the safest way possible is top priority.


Sean Moloney, a multi-instrumentalist who plays drums with Whaleboat, also runs booking at The Rail. He recalls in August beginning cautiously to bring back live music. "We started out just Jeremy Riddle and I taking turns from week to week playing solo," said Moloney. "We played outside to small crowds and it felt good."


Since then a couple other solo musicians have played the courtyard, including Matt Marshburn, aka Cousin Itt, and Ember City guitarist, Ryan Taito.


But that taste of solo playing made Moloney hungry for more. He really wanted to have a band or two and be part of getting Savannah’s music scene back up and flying. To test things out, Moloney, with guidance from owner Melissa Swanson, coordinated a show in September with his band Whaleboat and local metal heroes Ember City.


"I was a little nervous at first," recalls Swanson, "but people were respectful, kept a distance, wore masks. It was a smooth success."


At that September show Ember City opened as duo of Sarah Poole and Ryan Taito and Whaleboat closed it out. This time, it’s switched — on Nov. 5, the full lineup of Ember City headlines. "It feels amazing to be able to play as a full band for a live audience again," said Poole, Ember City’s lead singer and bassist, "and we love playing with Whaleboat. They’re great guys and we’re huge fans of their music."


The guys in Whaleboat (Brent Collins, Sean Moloney, Blake Yokeley) have been working and writing together for more than five years. They craft songs with layers of guitars, big drums, and clear, up front vocals — it’s a little Depeche Mode meets The Cure with some U2 and Foo Fighters thrown in.


And for Whaleboat, the upcoming show is an important milestone. With very few live venues to play in the past six months, the band focused much of their quarantine on writing and rehearsing new material. On Nov. 5, the band debuts two new singles, "Sunburst" and "Darkside."


"Our new music goes live on Spotify and all the platforms that day," explained Moloney, "so the show kind of celebrates that and just being able to be part of a somewhat back-to-normal rock show."


For The Rail Pub, it may be a while until things are 100% back to normal, but for now in the new normal the pub emphasizes wearing a mask at appropriate times and maintaining social distance.


"This city has done a really good job on how to prepare for this," reflects Swanson, "we keep working and don’t react to the negative stuff. Stay thoughtful, respectful, and have clear boundaries, and things work out."