On May 8 and 9, I spoke with several proud JAGarmy members who were still gushing about what they collectively described as an amazing and unforgettable musical experience. It’s been seven days since Detroit native singer/songwriter Jeff Gutt took the stage at the Detroit Masonic Temple for his debut live show with band members Gary Pittel, Cyamak Ashtiani, Brandon Brown and Casey Jenkins. The dust still hasn’t settled from the explosive experience for Jeff’s loyal JAGarmy fan base that flew across continents, in some cases, to see him.
In the report that follows, Jeff Gutt’s fans candidly discuss their opinions of the show, the band, Jeff’s uncanny ability to emotionally connect with them through his music and their impressions of Jeff and the band at the post-show meet and greet.
The Road to Masonic
Jeff Gutt and fellow Michigan native guitarists Gary Pittel and Cyamak Ashtiani joined bass player Casey Jenkins and drummer Brandon Brown to play their debut show at one of the most historic venues in Michigan – Detroit’s Masonic Temple in the Jack White Theatre. This concert marked Jeff’s first headlining show since his “X Factor” season three runner up finish that finally garnered him much-deserved global recognition after his lifelong pursuit of a successful career in the music industry.
Jeff has proudly earned a large band of local followers as he gigged around Michigan before and after a stint with a band that didn’t work out. At this point, Jeff is calm, having a great time writing music and likes the idea of controlling the destiny of a future record he’ll put out with the guys he affectionately describes as a “super group” of musicians to perform with. Jeff and the band have big plans in the months ahead and they have a legion of loyal followers to support and encourage them.
Jeff’s international fan base, the JAGarmy, has tracked his journey and celebrated his success every step of the way via his social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Several of his fans were happy to speak out about what seeing him live in his hometown in his debut show with his new band really means to them individually and collectively within the ranks of the JAGarmy which many describe as "one big family."
On the Show
The Masonic set was a great mix of songs from Jeff’s album with Gary Pittel, “Humanity,” “X Factor” tunes, popular covers and some new songs like “Your Name” and “Shadows and Light.” The rock tunes exploded out into the room with Jeff’s signature power and the acoustic set showcased his vulnerability and his keen ability to draw the audience in and make them feel. He started with “Not Alone” and ended with a spectacular laser lit cover of “Dream On” and fans were wild with enthusiasm throughout the night.
Michigan resident Darla Skinner was impressed, moved and proud to be among the people who came from all over the country and even Canada and Australia to see the show. She said, “Everybody was stoked. He was so grateful in thanking us. I could tell he was really happy with the outcome. He had a standing “o” all night. No one sat down. They went nuts.”
Karin Bundy traveled from Connecticut to the show. She recalled her favorite moment saying, “I think my overall favorite moment in the concert was them walking out on that stage. Jeff owned that stage and it wasn’t just him, it was the whole band. Everything that was going on, I know that Jeff and every member of that band worked together to choreograph it so it was tight. It was right, it was on the note. It was fun, it was upbeat.”
Donna Stefforia from Michigan loved the show and has a “Jeff jar” established to save money to travel to Jeff's next tour destination. She said, “My favorite part was when he sang "Hallelujah" and "Amazing Grace." And, for him to play his guitar like he did, all the guys, they all played so good together. They looked like they’d been together forever. I’m saving all my change in a jar that I get every day from wherever I go, so when it’s time to leave, I have my plane ticket. I have a Jeff jar now.”
Allison Quino traveled from New York for the show and has been inspired by Jeff’s grit and determination to never give up. She described the vibe in the Masonic this way:
“It was chaotic, but in a good way. It was absolutely chaotic. People were like crazy. People were screaming. Everyone on their feet throughout the entire performance, singing and clapping, laughing and cheering them on. One of the fans from the fan group was just crying. Everyone, all different ages were just on their feet screaming and clapping and cheering them on. It was absolutely surreal and I really think that those guys felt it.”
On Emotionally Connecting
In a couple of prior interviews with Jeff, I noted his ability to emotionally connect with his listeners and he credited it to the power of music to reach people how and when they need it most. Jeff’s huge fan base continues to be very vocal about how Jeff’s music has impacted them emotionally and in many cases, changed their lives for the better.
The laughter and tears throughout the debut show was indicative of the way Jeff reaches people and touches them when he sings. Karin Bundy (seen in one of the slideshow photos crying) has cried when hearing Jeff sing ever since “The X Factor” and several other fans were moved by her tears during the debut show.
Karin said, “It’s probably been 15 years since a musician has moved me this much. No musician has ever brought out the emotion. He got me out of bed literally and figuratively.”
A friend of Jeff and the band, Karen Julian, is also a proud JAGarmy member. She shared what she feels is the reason Jeff connects so strongly with his listeners. She said, “When Jeff sings, it comes from his soul. And when people fall in love from hearing him sing, it’s deep from him. He’s still Jeff Gutt but it’s his soul and he feels everything and every word that comes out of his mouth, he feels it and he expresses it as he sings it.”
Darla Skinner added, “You can feel his pain when he’s singing. You can feel that he’s been through some pain and he cares. Most people that are soft hearted have been through some stuff. His voice soothes your soul. I witnessed some that night. That was one of my favorite parts of [the show], watching the excitement. He also motivated me in my own personal life with him not giving up. That helped me. Going for it and not giving up and getting back up. The JAGarmy, we’re a family because of him.”
An Aussie Dream Come True
Jeff and the band and other members of the JAGarmy were bowled over to learn Michele Cannard was flying all the way from Australia to see the Detroit Masonic show. In speaking with Michele, it was obvious she was still basking in the glow of her experience.
When asked what it was about Jeff that compelled her to travel all the way from Australia to see him, Michele’s immediate answer was very simple, “Because he’s that good.” Then she added, “I’ve been following him since 2012 and the first Hallelujah audition and decided this guy is amazing. I love his voice, I love his stage presence, I love everything about him. I was just YouTubing everything I could.”
Michele’s story of her transcontinental journey was very inspiring to me and many members of Jeff’s fan base. At first she seemed overwhelmed by the idea of making the journey. But, after speaking with a close friend, she began to see there was absolutely nothing stopping her from making a dream come true.
“Every night for about a week I was going to bed crying because I couldn’t get to see him. It was too far away,” said Michele. “My heart was aching. I was talking to a girlfriend and she said, Why can’t you go and I said, because it’s in America. I’ve never traveled outside of Australia. I’m on my own now. I was married for a lot of years and recently separated and never traveled let alone on my own. Within half an hour she had convinced me.”
Michele was even more thrilled by the loving support of fellow JAGarmy members she’d forged friendships with on Jeff’s social media fan groups on Facebook and Twitter. Meeting some of them was an unforgettable part of the trip she will always cherish. Finally seeing Jeff sing live and meeting him face-to-face made the whole experience a dream come true.
Ironically, she can’t remember exactly what Jeff said to her during the post-show meet and greet because she was so nervous in the moment. She said, “I can’t remember an awful lot. I do remember telling him that he sounded better than I ever imagined. The sound quality was so piercing and beautiful. The sound of it being live.”
She paused to think and then added, “I do remember saying to him that I was so glad he wore his leather pants. I think I was so much in awe I can’t remember what else I said to him.”
Michele was grateful for other people’s support. “Vito announced this is your Aussie fan and the whole room got in a cheer like you wouldn’t believe. I thought I’d be a nervous wreck. I thought I’d be crying. But, I kept it together really well and got a big photo and the whole room was just cheering, she said, “Just the way he looks at you, his eyes, he looks at you as if you’re the only person in the room. He really is genuine when he looks at you and talks to you. He makes you feel so special.”
Meet and Greet Impressions
After the show, Jeff and the band treated fans to photo ops and autographs via a meet and greet. The line was really long and fans were impressed that Jeff and the guys greeted each person with warmth and enthusiasm, despite the overwhelming number of people lined up to see him.
Jewelry designer Karen Lindner and her daughter, Christina, traveled from Ohio. Nearly last in the meet and greet line, they noted that he seemed just as friendly and engaged as if they were the first in line.
Jamielynn Looney traveled from Tennessee to see the show. She loved everything about it and was thrilled to meet Jeff, the band, and members of Jeff’s family including his siblings and parents.
“The meet and greet was going on until midnight. There were so many people in line. Unbelievable. I was towards the end of the line and I thought I was gonna be shy. I know kinda funny right? I’m never shy,” she said. “Anyways I just hugged him and told him he was fabulous and that I loved him and I thanked him for being so kind. He thanked me for all I did for him.”
Karen Julian also felt blessed to meet Jeff’s family, including his dad, Greg Gutt, who she really respects and looks up to. She noted each member of the band has his own distinct personality. She labeled Brandon as “a joker,” Jeff as “a hugger,” Casey as “a really caring person,” Cyamak as “gracious and a gentleman through and through” and Gary as “soft spoken and generous.”
Several fans noted bass player Casey Jenkins is very sweet and good-looking and lots of them fawn over his beautiful hair. Drummer Brandon Brown was formerly regarded as shy, due to the fact that he doesn’t have a Twitter or Facebook page. However in person, people noted Brandon smiled a lot and was totally outgoing.
Fans collectively noted the incredible chemistry between Jeff and all members of the band. Allison Quino said, “Both on the stage and off the stage, they have such good chemistry together. The fact that they have that chemistry off the stage really, really shows during the show. Their performance was absolutely stellar. I think maybe Casey’s a little shy. They all have their own individual personalities. They seem to be not just talented; they also gave me the impression that they are gentlemen.”
By all JAGarmy accounts, Jeff Gutt and his band’s Detroit Masonic debut show was a raving success and a night they won’t soon forget. Messages of love, support, and photo and video sharing continue to stream across Jeff and the guys’ social media sites and they can’t wait for them to tour to other cities across the country and around the world.
Jamielynn Looney may have summed up the night best by saying, “Jeff Gutt just completely rocked the Masonic Temple down!”