BIG question hangs over the Heineken Weekender in Galway the question is, will Tricky definitely make the scene or will he maybe do a disappearing act? The West Country guru of trip-hop caused a bit of pre-Weekender tension when word got around that he was pulling out but the organisers were quick to quash that pernicious rumour and reassure fans that the Trickster will indeed take the stage at Leisureland on Saturday night for the penultimate gig of the event. Let's hope he conjures up a suitably climactic show.

The Heineken Weekender has always been a bit of a showcase for dance, funk, techno and hip-hop acts but the addition of Ocean Colour Scene to the line-up should cause the club-happy clique to trip up in their tracks. The Birmingham purveyors of so-called Dadrock, however, won't be fazed one bit and when they play Leisureland on Thursday night, they're sure to blow the crowd off its feet with some sonically-charged R & B.

Later that night, over in the Quays, the weird, Wild West hip-hop of Alabama 3 will send `em whooping and hollering into the small hours of the morning. The seven-piece from Brixton mixes techno with country blues and tunes like Ain't Goin' To Goa are loved-up anthems for cowboys on acid. If you miss them on Thursday, then they'll be kicking up the dust again the next night at the Roisin Dubh. Lovely.

The Friday line-up brings the return of those Blue Note jazz rappers, US3, playing a late-night gig at the G.P.O. club. Things have changed a bit down in the old jazz vaults since US3 first splashed into the charts with the sun- drenched single, Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia), and the album, Hand On The Torch. Geoff Wilkinson has parted company with his partner Mel Simpson, but he keeps his hand firmly on the helm of a new line-up which includes rappers KCB and Shabaam-Sahdeeq.

If you're already hip to Underworld, Leftfield and Orbital, then you should get a bit closer to The Aloof when they play the Warwick on Friday night. Formed in London in 1990, the Technodub foursome's debut album, 1994's Cover The Crime, was a worthy contemporary to Underworld's masterpiece, Dubnohasswithmyheadman, but while Karl Hyde, Darren Emerson and Rick Smith went mega with Born Slippy, Dean Thatcher, Ricky Barrow and Gagz Kooner have remained somewhat distant from the mainstream, unwilling to be absorbed into the limbo of handbags and happy house which now threatens to engulf Underworld. That could all change, however, now their current album, Sinking, has broken the surface.

TRICKY is one of UK hip-hop's most adventurous artists, unafraid of change, challenge and experimentation. He's also not scared of self-indulgence and although 1994's Maxinquaye album was hailed as a heavenly masterpiece his Nearly God project proved the Tricky kid was only human after all. Tricky regained some lost faith with last November's dark, desolate Pre-Millennium Tension, a smoky, shadowy soundtrack for the fagend of the century.

Also on Saturday night, newcomers Olive are at the Warwick, pouring out the beats from last year's Extra Virgin album. Tim Kellett spent 10 years playing keyboards with Simply Red but thankfully it hasn't dulled his dance sensibilities; singer Ruth Ann was North East England's Under-14 dance champion, so she was largin' it up even then; and Robin Taylor-Forth has collaborated with Nightmares On Wax, so be afraid; be very, very afraid.

Finally, let us not forget the DJs who keep the whole thing spinning over four days of non-stop dance. Monkey Mafia's finest, Jon Carter and Derek Dehlarg will be dropping some phat beats at the G.P.O. club on Saturday night, while Sunday night sees the acclaimed L.T.J. Bukem making the logical progression to a drum `n' bass-driven finale.