Pasadena Higher Education, Sweet Leda
Pasadena was founded in 2000 by Joey Harkum on acoustic guitar and vocals, Aaron Hooper on bass, Will Finley on lead guitar and Ben Cowdery on drums. The band started out as a group of three friends from Pasadena, MD – Joey Harkum, Will Finley and Aaron Hooper. “We were too young to get into open mics, so we repeatedly sneaked in and performed anyway in and around our hometown. Eventually the three of us began to be referred to as “the boys from Pasadena,” and the band name “Pasadena” was born.” The band is known as an “originalist” in a business that loves cover songs, they only perform their own work. Describing them can be a challenge. A mixture of “singer/songwriter driven rock, reggae and ska” does a good job of covering most of what they produce when together but really just begins to scratch the surface. The band built up a strong following in their hometown and throughout the U.S., connecting with audiences through original music marked by smooth bass lines, personal lyrics, infectious rhythms and lush harmonies.
However, in 2017 after relentless touring across the US, the band decided to hang it up. Inevitably the retirement was short lived as they decided to play again with a reunion show to a sold out crowd at Baltimore Soundstage show in August of 2019 and the itch to start playing again started. The band is currently still only playing sparingly but enough to keep their fans happy and wanting more. If you see them coming to your town make sure you don’t miss it because it might just be your last chance.
For nearly a decade now, Higher Education continues to craft their unique blend of psychedelic soaked reggae with raw, riotous rock n roll. This equation rapidly took them from local favorites in the DMV to playing nationally renowned venues and festivals.
The musicianship and versatility of the band has allowed them to provide direct support to roots reggae legends The Wailers, to funk legends George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, to jam scene veterans Lettuce, all the way to winning over EDM crowds playing alongside Beats Antique among many others. Their ever-evolving palate offers something on the menu for all music fans.
Hailing from College Park, MD they quickly took the DMV by storm before moving on to relentless touring.
Weaving in and out of genres and cities, Higher Education is now poised to spread their sound further than ever before with their fourth independent record “Gift Called Life” reaching #4 on the ITunes charts as well as receiving coverage in Relix Magazine. With a 5th full-length album set for release in Summer 2019 along with an extensive tour Higher Education intends to continue raising the bar.
Powered by Julie Cymek’s sultry, commanding vocals and electrifying stage presence, Sweet Leda is taking the diverse mid-Atlantic music scene by storm as one of the most exciting and accomplished live acts on the rise. In fact, Lou Plaia (co-founder of Reverbnation) describes them as “the highlight of every festival they play.” With its rich blend of new school funk, psychedelic rock, soul and pop, Sweet Leda’s heartfelt original music can best be described as a female-fronted, soul-based, Zeppelin meets Chili Peppers!
Sweet Leda’s sophomore album Let It In captures the live and raw essence of what can only come from years of steady gigs, blood, sweat, and a few tears. To capture this essence, the band recorded all together in one room, tracking analog to 2” tape. What came out of the process is an intimate, in-your-face, edgy sound that exemplifies Sweet Leda live, and at their best. Let It In was recorded and engineered at WrightWay in Baltimore by IRKO (Jay-Z, J Lo, Pitbull, Talib Kweli), mastered by Brian Lucey (Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys, Beck, Dr John), and produced by Sweet Leda’s very own “fifth Beatle,” Stephen Joseph Antonelli, who also produced and recorded the band’s first album, Need The Music.
Among the band’s many milestone achievements are: four Tri State Indie Music Awards, including the Groupie’s Choice Award in 2012; Best Emerging Artist DC/Baltimore in The Deli Magazine’s reader’s poll in 2011; sharing the stage with bands like Galactic, 311, and Jefferson Starship; performing at festivals with the likes of Citizen Cope, G Love, Cake, Live, Lake Street Dive, and Tedeschi Trucks; writing the end-credit title track for the feature film Lovely Molly by Ed Sanchez (Blair Witch Project); being hand-picked by Allman Bros. drummer Butch Trucks to open for his band at the Roots Rock Revival Masters Camp; and performing at Summerfest in Milwaukee 2013 and 2015.
Sweet Leda regularly features tenor-saxophonist Ron Holloway who is listed in the Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz where veteran jazz critic Ira Gitler described Holloway as a “bear-down-hard-bopper who can blow authentic R&B and croon a ballad with warm, blue feeling.” Holloway has worked with the likes of Susan Tedeschi, Dizzy Gillespie, Gil Scott-Heron, Little Feat, and Root Boy Slim. He is currently a member of The Warren Haynes Band in addition to fronting the Ron Holloway Band.