SITUATED 13 MILES northwest of Tyler in East Texas, the city of Lindale is one of the newest locales to be officially branded a preferred music destination in the Lone Star State.
The small town of just over 6,000 is in the midst of a musical evolution that’s won over the Texas Music Office, satisfying every criterion established to be named the fifth Music Friendly Community.
Boasting an impressive mix of music venues, a local college that offers educational opportunities in the music industry and a welcoming atmosphere, Lindale is a city with undeniable potential.
Though small, Lindale is no stranger to the spotlight. The town attributes much of its fame to its native daughter, Miranda Lambert, one of the most decorated artists in music history, whose career took off after she placed third on the television show Nashville Star. That tradition continues, as hometown product Billie Jo Sewell is now competing on USA Network’s Real Country.
Lindale was established in 1871 when a new railroad track was laid through Smith County on the land that would ultimately serve as the city’s foundation. Anticipating growth, Elijah Lindsey opened a general store, thus founding Lindale and serving as the town’s first mayor.
The town experienced its first major population boom four years later when the International-Great Northern Railroad extended tracks directly through the community, leading to the beginnings of Lindale’s fruit and vegetable canning industry. By 1900, Lindale became a full-fledged, self-sufficient small town.
The remnants of the town’s canning past now serve as the city’s present-day cluster of attractions at the Cannery, one of Lindale’s chief developments. The actual canning facility went out of business in the early 1990s, and the area fell into decline. Intent on giving Lindale a new face, the city council purchased the land a decade ago, seeking to build a multifaceted venue with mom-and-pop shops, restaurants and community gathering areas.
Developers Chad Franke, Bill Andreason and Chad Michel approached the city with ideas to open a multi-use music venue near Lindale City Hall on Highway 69, but city planners had an alternative pitch: take their idea to the plot of land that housed the Cannery. Hint: it was a success.
The Cannery transformed Lindale from a quaint Texas town to a premier center for music, shopping, eating and more. Located right off of I-69 and easily accessible from I-20, Highway 16 and Toll Road 49, the Cannery is at the heart of the hustle and bustle of major roadways.
“Everything we offer here in Lindale is an experience,” says Seong MacLaren, tourism director for the city, dubbing the town “the new entertainment capital of East Texas.”
The number of venues within the Cannery, along with the parks surrounding the area, make the development a city within a city. “Whether it’s an intimate show for 50 or an event for 15,000, Lindale really does have everything and more,” says Tye Phelps. If needed, the entire 50-acre zone can be sectioned off from the rest of the city, creating — literally — a community of music.
“Lindale is able to do what other cities can’t,” Phelps says. “We can wall off a portion of town to provide a giant space for music events.” Adds MacLaren: “With someone who might want to host a bigger event, Lindale can provide a safe space for people to enjoy six stages that seamlessly transition from one to the other.” Big Texas Fest, a three-day festival in 2017, drew big crowds for Robert Earl Keen, Aaron Watson and Monte Montgomery.
But smaller stages have hosted jazz ensemble Profetic Calaveras, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Bluegrass Band and the Southern soul and funk group Roxy Roca.
A MUSIC-FRIENDLY COMMUNITY
What makes Lindale unique among Music Friendly Communities is its scale: the first four certified communities — Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Denton — are large cities compared with the small, East Texas town. Being a smaller town in the company of metropolises demonstrates Lindale’s important role in Texas music. “Lindale supports our local artists,” Phelps says. Everything from the Cannery and its six stages, the Texas Music City record label and even a specialized music program at Tyler Junior College’s North campus in Lindale speak to that artistic commitment.
The offerings at Tyler Junior College North’s location — beginning next fall — will focus on the commercial music industry and will transition into a full-time degree option the following year. There will be a scholarship program for students so that they can pursue their dreams of entering the music industry. Both Phelps and Jeanie Oxler, the chair of the music department at the college, believe it’s an ideal opportunity for students to come to Lindale to acquire an education in, as Phelps puts it, “what people are actually doing in the music community” — and to gain experience interning and creating relationships with the multiple venues in the city. “When students graduate,” Phelps says, “they’ll already have a rookie resume.”
Phelps is among those who believe Lindale will one day rival the state’s most popular and iconic entertainment destinations, only without the traffic congestion, noise pollution and the craziness of a large city. “This,” Phelps says, “will be the No. 1 music venue in Texas.”
Cannery developer Chad Franke agrees, adding, “We want this to be event central. We’ll kill it out here.”
Built around friends, family and music, perhaps you shouldn’t be asking yourself, “Why Lindale?” but rather, “Why not Lindale?”
The Pink Pistol
For Miranda Lambert enthusiasts, the Pink Pistol is an experience of its own. (See Tickled Pink) The boutique was opened by the hometown singer in 2013 and offers a plethora of glitz, glam and Ran Fan merchandise.
Inside the boutique, there’s a small stage in the store that can house about 45 audience members for an intimate performance in one of the most iconic spots in Lindale. If you make your way to a show at the Pink Pistol, you might even catch a glimpse of Lambert herself, as she often likes to come and check in on her boutique that attracts visitors year-round.
Texas Music City Grill
One of the most interesting, multi-faceted venues housed in the Cannery is the Texas Music City Grill & Smokehouse. Formerly known as Love & War in Texas, the restaurant’s flagship location in Plano might seem familiar to some. In 2003, a 19-year-old Lambert auditioned at the Love & War’s Plano site for Nashville Star, where she’d go on to place third before ultimately launching her career.
Owner Tye Phelps is well-connected in the music industry and works closely with the city, as well as Lambert’s parents, Rick and Bev — so close, in fact, that Texas Music City Grill neighbors Lambert’s Pink Pistol. The venue includes a performance area that holds up to 500 people and is put to good use with regular concerts and events.
The Texas Music City name is more than just a restaurant; it’s a recording studio and production company as well. Everything needed to launch a music career, it seems, is here.
Darden Harvest Park
Located at the heart of the Cannery’s downtown district is Darden Harvest Park. This 23-acre expanse offers running trails, enhanced nature areas and the city’s largest venue stage that can accommodate 15,000 attendees. The stage was built with the aim of hosting larger music events as well as a “Welcome Home” stage for Lambert.
The century-old storage facility, once a cannery business, is now known as Picker’s Pavilion. The 10,000-square-foot city-owned building was refurbished to provide an event space and congregational area for the city while preserving the historic bones of the structure.
The stage in Picker’s is able to hold up to 1,000 patrons and also serves as the “plan B” stage if weather interferes with any activity occurring at Texas Music City Grill and Smokehouse’s outdoor stage. Wade Bowen, Crystal Yates and Stoney LaRue have all graced the Picker’s stage.
The Cannery Stage
Across the street from the Pink Pistol and Picker’s Pavilion on Miranda Lambert Way is the Cannery’s outdoor stage. Just a stone’s throw from Lambert’s boutique that houses the acoustic stage for 50 people, the mid-sized Cannery Stage has the ability to fit up to 7,000 in its designated outdoor area. Mega-names in the music industry Billy Bob Thornton and Night Ranger have put on performances on the stage.
The Fountain Stage
At the heart of the Cannery — also on Miranda Lambert Way — is the development’s small, outdoor Fountain Stage. On a nice day, one might find a local jazz or acoustic band playing music for visitors to enjoy.