Monday nights in downtown Savannah are generally still, restive even. The squares sit silent while stale beer stains fade from the sidewalks along Congress St. Abandoned to-go cups find their way into city trash cans and the consumption of pizza at Sweet Melissa's slows to a paltry pie or two an hour. Yet, a little after nine PM the sounds of guitar, harmonica and the occasional rising voice, in harmony or in laughter, echo in the blocks around Lincoln and E Bryan streets. To follow these sounds would be to find Abe’s on Lincoln, a local haunt and host to Abe’s Open Mic Night every week.
Abe’s itself occupies the bottom floor of a home that, rare for this area, hasn’t been rented as a vacation home or purchased by a snow bird enamored with our magnolias. It’s ceilings are low and the ancient rafters exposed above are covered with a patchwork quilt of, well Abe’s. Napkin portraits of Abraham Lincoln, "Babe-raham Lincoln,” Lincoln in the style of Picasso, Lincoln in punk rock attire, Lincoln driving a convertible, drinking a tallboy, boxing a kangaroo. Chicken scratch Lincolns and Lincolns that darn near deserve a frame all their own. Your Lincoln could soon join the others, as every year they are torn down and the crop begins anew. Paper Abe’s aside, the bar is a little like a living room, immediately it wraps you up and the light of the bar beckons where bar manager Mike and his notable beard, colored much like a lust crazed flaming-hot cheeto, waits to pour you a drink.
Just opposite the bar, a man near as tall as the ceiling tosses heavy amp cords closer to an outlet and arranges cases which just contained speakers and guitars. Abe’s is a small house, and it’s about to fill with music for which Craig Tanner, with the support of Mike, has built a home. For six years running Craig has offered his time and energy to give musicians a space here when he isn’t playing sets with his own band - American Hologram.
As a has-been regular at Abe’s, I’ve been fortunate enough to see the ever churning pool of talent that has come through Abe’s. There are locals who play regularly, first timers who forget the words to their original songs but win the crowd as their talent is laid bare. There’s jangly folk and melodic violin chords. Harmonicas and the occasional saxophone glint in the low light. Voices young and old, rough and soft rotate through three song sets. Craig himself backs up the artists who ask with a practiced ear long used to jamming with strangers and friends alike. The acoustic alchemy in the air is nothing short of incredible.
On a good night and when the waiting players have all had their turn, it isn’t uncommon to see styles mix as the order turns into a general jam session. More than once the police have popped in after a grumpy tourist called about the noise from a hotel nearby. If only they had snagged a seat at Abe’s instead. Then again, Amy, who relaxes outside after a serving shift nearby says “stay away, I want my seats.” As much as I want a seat of my own, I want to share this local gem with anyone who has an ear for music or wishes to explore their own talents. Savannah is small enough that one might be part of it’s story - at Abe’s, you can be part of its sound.
Abe's on Lincoln is located at 17 Lincoln St. in downtown Savannah, Open Mic Night runs every Monday from 10PM till close.