For WBOR's annual concert tonight, The Hold Steady brings its straight-ahead accessible rock to Smith Union.

The show owes much to the DJs at WBOR, and also to loyal fans Jesse McCree '06, Derek Kraft '06, and Matt Murchison '07. The three have been to several concerts and saw the potential for a successful show at Bowdoin. McCree and Kraft are both DJs at the radio station, and Murchison, in addition to being a WBOR DJ and the manager of Jack Magee's Pub, booked the band.

All three enthusiastically concurred with Rolling Stone and Spin, which named The Hold Steady's debut, "Almost Killed Me," as "the number one album you haven't heard but should," and the second album, "Separation Sunday," as one of the top 50 albums of 2005.

"They'll be huge in about two years," McCree said. "When we look at that Ben Folds poster in the union now and think, 'Wow, Ben Folds came here?' People will be saying the same thing about The Hold Steady in a couple of years."

The band is often described as a local favorite bar-band type, yet Kraft continued this description by saying their brand of traditional rock fits best "at a bar where people are there for the band, and where the band is there as a fixture."

McCree agreed that The Hold Steady is not a band that is comfortable in the corners while the barflies mill around them, but instead embraces the fun that a bar band should bring.

"They have the clichés that come with a bar band, like pick slides before the guitar solos, stops, and more, but for them it doesn't sound like a cliché," he said. "It's not joke rock, but more a shout-out to Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band and adding their own hipster, religion, and drugs thing."

Another aspect of their music that makes The Hold Steady unique is their lyrics, drawing the attention of National Public Radio and leading to a web site where the station analyzed the band's many references to other rock songs, bars the band drank in, and even the Bible.

"You can't tell if it's a Christian who loves alcohol or an alcoholic who loves Jesus," Murchison said.

Kraft emphasized the interesting storytelling quality of the band's songs: "Storytelling is something that died with 70s singer-songwriters, so it's unique for rock."

Also, the delivery of these lyrics and the celebratory rock quality of the music makes it accessible to the entire audience, even those who haven't heard the band before.

"[Craig Finn,] the lead singer, it's like he's talking to you with a speak-sing delivery, and then they just go into this crazy guitar whirlwind," McCree said.

Murchison added that the band loves to play small venues, especially to interact with audience members.

"They may have even recognized Derek and Jesse from other shows," he said.

Even though they play small venues, Kraft claimed that "they still have presence on stage. It's easy to jump in if you don't know the band."

The show has created buzz not only among WBOR DJs and others on the Bowdoin campus, but also among fans from Portland, Boston, and even Bowdoin faculty members with friends as far away as Chicago. With support coming from all sides, McCree's prediction that "wallflowers might be in the minority" may be an understatement.

Even for that minority, The Hold Steady will be getting them on its feet in Morrell Lounge, Smith Union at 10 p.m. tonight.