Old Town Pub continues 15-year party tradition

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On Halloween last year, the Old Town Pub was packed with people. Heads were bobbing to the music of Worried Men, and costumes were slowly falling apart from the friction.

Old Town Pub, just as it has been for the past 15 years, is the place to be on Halloween. Five years ago, when Matt and Lizzie Larock bought the Old Town Pub, they knew they had big shoes to fill, Lizzie Larock said.

What: Chris Duarte Group When: 10 p.m. Saturday Where: Old Town Pub, 600 Lincoln Ave. Cost: $5

They had to learn the names of all the regulars and continue the tradition of the most famous Halloween party in Steamboat Springs.

Lizzie and Matt attended the party for years before they bought the bar. They knew what was expected.

Part of the secret is limiting the number of parties they throw each year to their big three: Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day and Halloween, Lizzie Larock said.

And Halloween stands out because it's a "locals only" affair, said Matt Larock.

"For a lot of people, this is the last big locals party before the season begins. It's the last time to party with people you won't see all season," he said.

The secret to throwing a good Halloween party, Matt Larock has learned, is for the owner to be on site, in costume and having a good time. Matt Larock is famous for his costumes -- Hulk Hogan one year, Joe Dirt for another. Once you pull off a good costume, the pressure is on for the next year.

"You just have to have a willingness to humiliate yourself," he said.

In the past, the Old Town Pub has hired a local band for its Halloween party, but this year is special. It's the 100th anniversary of the building that houses the pub, a building that used to be a hospital, a hotel and a hardware store. To celebrate, the Larocks decided to hire a national act. On the recommendations of staff members, they hired the Chris Duarte Group. Duarte happens to be playing in Winter Park this week and had the Saturday date open.

Duarte performs regularly in Steamboat. He has appeared at the Inferno, the The Tugboat Grill & Pub and Slopeside Bar and Grill.

Duarte is known as a hard-edged guitar player who, as a profile on Tennessee's Bandit Blues Radio Web site put it, "attacks his guitar with a vengeance -- bent over at the waist, long hair flying in his face, playing monster licks at a decibel level that would make Quiet Riot flinch."

The Austin-based musician has been playing professionally since he was a teenager. He grew up in San Antonio and dropped out of school at 16 to pursue a musical career. He moved to Austin alone.

"From the age of 15, I knew that's what I wanted," he said in a phone interview earlier this year. Duarte joined a blues band at 16. When he first appeared on the national scene, critics regularly compared him to Stevie Ray Vaughn.

"But there's only one Stevie, and one was enough," Duarte said. "Now, I'm trying to pick up what Stevie, Hendrix, Coltrane left for us, but I want to interpret it differently."

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