Rock for a Reason

The Mission River Band shares its musical wealth with local causes

Published in 2022 Wisconsin Super Lawyers magazine

By Kellie MacDonald Freeze on November 11, 2022


“A creative outlet is soul nourishment,” says Bernard J. “Bud” Bobber.

Bobber and fellow attorneys David Karp and Elizabeth Feyrer Bagley are members of the Mission River Band, which plays on behalf of local and national charities. In addition to its trio of attorneys—Bagley on vocals, Karp on guitar and keyboard, and Bobber on vocals and rhythm guitar—the rock cover band includes a retired dermatologist, two accountants, and a retired American Airlines pilot.

The group formed in 2005 so several parishioners of a Mequon church could connect over a shared love of music. “It was a way to get together and practice in a basement and have fun,” recalls Karp, who joined soon after it was founded. After some epic jam sessions and a wildly successful church auction, the group knew they were a part of something special.

“We knew we didn’t want to be a bar band. We didn’t want to play Friday or Saturday nights and get home at midnight or two in the morning—our spouses wouldn’t have tolerated it,” Karp says with
a laugh. “But we thought that we were good enough, so why not do something good for society?”

“What drew me to the band is that here you have a group of incredibly busy professionals who are merely there for the love of it,” says Bagley. “And because our mission is completely philanthropic, it’s a ‘feel-good’ before you even start to play.”

All three say playing music complements their work as attorneys. “Performing on stage and performing in the courtroom both require professionalism and confidence,” says Bagley. “There’s a certain rush of adrenaline that you get in the courtroom, especially after a successful hearing or trial. It’s very similar to when we’re on stage.”

“Playing in the band is one of the rare occasions that I get my mind off of work,” Karp adds. “When I’m playing, I’m not thinking law. I’m not thinking about my next case, or about being prepared for court tomorrow. I can let go.”

The band primarily plays classic rock covers, but its repertoire has expanded as new members have joined. “We play anything from early blues and soul all the way through Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers and Bonnie Raitt,” says Bagley, who joined seven years ago. “We even play a little Jason Mraz.”

The members’ favorite songs are as diverse as the makeup of the band. “I like Van Morrison’s ‘Wild Night’ because I’m a vocalist,” says Bagley. “Our band can do some pretty good four-part harmonies.”

Meanwhile, Bobber enjoys dabbling in country with Alan Jackson’s “Mercury Blues,” on which he and Bagley shine on vocals and each instrumentalist gets a solo. “It moves at breakneck pace. You get done and you’re a little out of breath,” he says. “That’s four minutes of giving the audience all the energy we have.”

Karp’s favorite is Steely Dan’s “My Old School,” a song the band usually plays as the closer. “We can lay out on it,” he says. “It’s a song that we’ve done for a long time and I just feel comfortable and get in the groove whenever I play it.”

Mission River Band performs at about a dozen events per year in support or organizations like Make-A-Wish, Guitars for Vets, Special Olympics and Mel’s Charities of Ozaukee County. Bagley says the band’s annual performance at the Milwaukee Justice Center’s Run for Justice is paramount for her. “The organization helps people find and afford competent legal care or legal representation,” she says. “They always have a great crowd and the mission is really important to me as someone who works in family law.”

While most of their audience may not know about their full-time occupations, Karp says banter abounds when they play “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” by Warren Zevon.

“Someone will say, ‘This is the song we do in honor of our legal department: Dave and Elizabeth and Bud,’” Karp says with a laugh.

“Then I tell them, ‘I object!’” Bobber adds.

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