Joe Getty and the Dead Flowers pack Sammy’s out the door

So far, the ‘Sammy factor’ draws large crowds to Roseville's historic district
By: Scott Thomas Anderson, Editor
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“Let’s get this thing started,” Joe Getty said, drenched in scarlet stage lights, a G&L six-string in his hands and four musicians ready to pounce with a fast-flowing spark of rhythmic energy.

Admirers of Getty — who makes up half of the noted Armstrong and Getty radio show — as well as fans of his sound-slamming cohorts, The Dead Flowers, were disappointed in September when a benefit concert in Roseville was canceled due to last minute permits issues for Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar and Grill. However, on Saturday night Getty and the Dead Flowers played the venue and treated a capacity crowd to nearly three hours of high-octane rock 'n' roll — all in an effort to help regional foster children have a special Christmas.

Meanwhile, management at Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar and Grill said the excited audience boded well for the venue’s promise to help revitalize Vernon Street by attracting top musical acts.

Getty and the Dead Flowers made their debut in 2009 with the album “Low Expectations.” The group has strong regional ties, being comprised of Rocklin’s Getty on guitar and vocals, Granite Bay’s Richard Austin on lead guitar and vocals, Auburn’s Ritch Shefke on bass, and keyboardist Matt Holland and drummer Mark Martinez, both from the Sacramento area. Getty enjoys a loyal audience for his radio show but acknowledges the experience of writing and performing music is also a defining passion for him.          

“Other than my family, music has been the greatest source of happiness in my life since I was a kid,” Getty said. “Some people just feel it in them genetically. It’s a kind of energy that I really need, and it’s the greatest emotional medicine.”

Getty has found a kindred spirit in his fellow guitarist and songwriting partner, Austin. Having banged on musical axes since high school, Austin tries to complement Getty’s straightforward rock sensibilities with a bold immersion in dirty blues licks.

“In the beginning, I spent nine months working on songs with Joe in the studio,” Austin recalled. “The whole process of writing songs and bringing them to the stage is a great creative outlet. There’s nothing like it.”

Getty and the Dead Flowers opened the show with the namesake of their new album, “One More Mile,” filling the spacious bar and restaurant with crisp three-part harmonies over a driving, fuzz-laden rock anthem. Two songs later they transitioned into “Things You Can’t Live Without,” Getty’s vocals riding over a wave of percussive force from Martinez, whose strutting beats and hard-punched drum fills kept the crowd electrified.

For Martinez, Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar and Grill is an ideal room to pound his Mars Mapex drum kit.

“The place has a nice stage layout and absolutely great acoustics,” Martinez said. “That’s something that really struck me — that and how intimate the venue is.”

Early show highlights also included, “Eric the Clown,” an edgy, chord-cutting groove that spurred the audience to dance along the bottom of the stage. When the band turned to playing fan favorite “The Road & Maria,” it was Shefke who kept the momentum up with his fat, snarling baseline. That song drew rousing applause from every corner of Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar. From Shefke 's perspective, connecting with an audience is the most rewarding part of being a musician.

“There's just a certain magic that happens when everything clicks,” Shefke said, “and you feel that the most when you look out and see the faces in the crowd looking back at you.”

As the show pushed on, Getty announced the Roseville Fire Department had just arrived on its own mission: Earlier in the day a number of firefighters heard Getty discussing the benefit concert on Armstrong and Getty, and how admission was a new toy for local foster kids. The firefighters drove to every firehouse in their district to get donations from their fellow emergency responders. They showed up to Sammy’s with more than $600 in new toys for Sleep Train Foster Kids. The program was created by Sleep Train owner Dale Carlsen. All proceeds from Getty and the Dead Flowers’ current album, “One More Mile,” also go to Sleep Train Foster Kids.

Getty took a moment to commend the firefighters on stage and then launched straight back into the rock 'n' roll.

Maneuvering through the packed house was Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar and Grill manager Jason Enyeart, who has been working with both Hip Entertainment and Sammy Hagar to bring top performing talent to the new business endeavor. So far, The Wabos and members of Tesla have already graced the stage in the wake of Hagar himself christening the venue on Sept. 15. The Brad Stewart Band, which has a single climbing on the airwaves, is slated to play in December.

“The crowds just keep getting bigger and better on the weekends,” Enyeart said. “Sammy Hagar has actually been helping out a lot with booking ideas, and the plan is to eventually get big traveling names in here, too. That’s what we’re looking at for the future.”

Scott Thomas Anderson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at ScottA_RsvPT.