With Hard Working Class Heroes approaching this Friday and Saturday and with the festival's increased focus on industry networks and connections, the move from 100 to 50 bands was a smart one. Less bands got through but there are more bands ready for a pivot moment in their career. Here are eight of the 50 worth your time at the festival and beyond.
@ Workman's Club, Friday, 8pm
Good rock’n’roll music with an original twist is hard to come by these days but Dublin five-piece Fontaines do it by combining their Dublin accents, garage and post-punk rock’n’roll style in visceral songs that sound both fun and a bit dangerous at the same time.
The Grand Social, Friday, 8.45pm
With masked dancers and monochromatic visuals, Sl Stapleton's Bad Bones project is a a multimedia one, bringing cloudy imagery, eerie electronic vocals and percussive off-kilter club music into a maximalist whole.
Tramline, 10.45pm, Friday
Leading the new charge of R&B-centered pop acts from the Diffusion Lab label and produc-tion house alongside Soul, Jafaris is a singer and actor (he featured inSing Street) on the up with burgeoning star power. His best track so far is the booming metro beat ballad of If You Love Me.
Tara Building, 8.45pm, Friday
The Northern Irish artist appeared at Hard Working Class Heroes in 2015, but has since been developing her music with the support of Cork label Feel Good Lost. The just-released Hold On is the first public sign of that development, an emotionally resonant song written produced by Nick Raynor with a delicate chorus line.
The Grand Social, 7.45pm, Saturday
Outsider become the first artist to get an Irish-language-featuring track in a FIFA soundtrack (an honour no-one knew was needed but is cool all the same) recently but it’s the tune that may catch your attention. Míol Mór Mara is a child of the eighties – specifically the reverb-chugging rock kind as practiced and perfected by Springsteen and most recently, The War On Drugs.
The Underground, 7.30pm, Saturday
At their recent Sounds From A Safe Harbour show in Cork, producer Bebhinn Mc Donnell and vocalist Taylor Doyle (along with live visuals from Fiach), Sylk displayed a jagged yet youthful enthusiasm for creating their own sound and light world informed by dark-edged electronica in the style of FKA Twigs. It's early days but Sylk are on to something different.
Tramline, 9.15pm, Saturday
A Carlow artist who makes music of a pop-rap persuasion, Dammy Ari made his debut at last year’s festival. While the songs are mostly in demo form, he’s collaborated with Irish group Valleraphon on the dance track Give Me Your Love. For his own original music, the rap-per/singer has demonstrated an ear for writing a memorable melody.
The Grand Social, 9:30pm, Saturday
Not only has Galway artist Laoise Ní Nualláin developed a keen sense of her own identity through a pink-hued colour palette and a high-quality photography aesthetic, but she has brought the same attention to detail on her brooding electronic pop music. Her latest song Rich is a case in point, as it pulls between sweet close-up and ice cold stare.