Bitchin’ 

The last time Naomi Loughridge performed at Opolis, things didn’t go so well.

“She had a stroke,” guitarist Katie Stephens said. “Onstage.”

Not coincidentally, it was the last show that Norman garage punks John Wayne’s Bitches played. Saturday night’s bill, which they share with Norman’s Zombie vs. Shark and Stillwater’s The Escatones, will be their first public performance since that fateful May 30 concert.

“We were playing and she turned around to me and said, ‘My amp’s not working anymore,’” Stephens said.

As it turned out, it wasn’t Loughridge’s amp that failed. It was the left side of her brain.

And yet, she continued performing her lead singing duties.

“She sang great. The part of the brain that controlled her guitar playing was just gone, though. She stopped playing,” Stephens said. “Later on, I took her home. The next day, her face started going numb. She thought she was having an allergic reaction to her toothpaste.”

The stroke left Loughridge, a stay-at-home mom, hospitalized, incurring considerable medical expenses.

Stephens and the band couldn’t just watch from the sideline, so they helped to turn this summer’s second annual Punk Rock Prom (also at Opolis) into a fundraiser for Loughridge’s expenses. Skating Polly, Debris and four other bands performed, raising $530 to assist paying for her medical care.

Loughridge has since recovered (“She still remembers the words to the songs,” Stephens said) and gotten back into the usual swing of things, taking care of her kids and fronting a badass punk band, but not without heavy effort.

“She worked so incredibly hard every day,” Stephens said. “It’s made our friendship a whole lot tighter. We appreciate each other a lot more. I know Naomi a lot better than I did before. We were bandmates before, but now, she’s one of my best friends.”

Stephens said Loughridge was terrified by the initial thought of returning to play Opolis, but when Zombie vs. Shark approached them about sharing the bill, the lure of rock ’n’ roll was just too great.

“A year and a half, and we’re already playing a comeback show,” Stephens said. “Oh, man. This band has been a hell of a ride.”

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