After he split town to convert an Iron Range church into his reputable Sparta Studio, Glenrustles and Ol’ Yeller bandleader Rich Mattson found an ideal new musical and romantic partner in Germaine Gemberling, former teen rocker with the grunge-era band Smut.

Their Americana-flavored new band, Rich Mattson & the Northstars, feels like a family band in the best sense, and not just because Rich’s nephew Curtis Mattson is also the drummer. Fiddler Eli Bisonett and Gemberling’s harmony vocals add down-homey sweetness to Rich’s colorful songs of North Country life, including the youthful lament “This Town (Ghost Town)” and the country-fried story song “Old Gene.” They’re hosting a Duluth release party Friday at the Red Herring (9:30 p.m., $5), followed by a Turf Club show Saturday with the Rank Strangers, Austin rockers Sounds del Mar and the Matt Latterell Band (9 p.m., $6-$8). …

Saturday’s Turf Club gig is doubling as a release party for the Rank Strangers. Wait, didn’t they just put out a record? Mike Wisti’s hard-blasting basement-rock band actually has an album trilogy going on, and the second installment, “Ringtones,” lands this week. It’s a little more freaky than its catchy winter predecessor, “Lady President,” but the Guided by Voices comparisons stick — and on multiple levels. …

As if helming two bands at once and raising two kids isn’t enough work for him, Trampled by Turtles frontman Dave Simonett has partnered with local band manager and “Minnesota Beatles Project” ringleader Mark Gehring to launch a new record label, GNDWIRE (“ground wire”). Their first signee is John Mark Nelson, one of the acts Gehring represents (see also: Pert Near Sandstone, Haley Bonar). GNDWIRE has lined up partnerships with some big national companies, including Sony for distribution and TBT’s management Thirty Tigers for marketing.

Sounds like a good reason to celebrate, which the GNDWIRE team will do Tuesday with a launch party at Icehouse, the performers for which are being kept under wraps (8 p.m., free with RSVP at gndwire.com). …

Speaking of Pert Near Sandstone, they’re playing hosts — and playing a set, too — at next weekend’s Blue Ox Music Festival in Eau Claire, Wis., which kicks off Thursday with the Infamous Stringdusters and continues through Saturday with the Yonder Mountain String Band, Del McCoury, Justin Townes Earle, Greensky Bluegrass, Greg Brown and 20 more acts. More details and three-day passes ($150) available via BlueOxMusicFestival.com. …

The Amsterdam Bar & Hall hosts the second annual Pickin’ for Autism benefit Saturday with the Lowest Pair, Steve Kaul & the Brass Kings, Lenz and Frenz and Kind Country, benefiting Lionsgate Academy (7 p.m., $12-$15). … A new sister venue to the Amsterdam and 331 Club, Como Dockside in St. Paul’s Como Park is now fully open and hosting live music, including Garden of Song Opera on Friday and Saturday (7 p.m.), Cooker John on Sunday (3 p.m.) and Erica West on Tuesday (7 p.m.). …

Downtown St. Paul’s free Music in Mears series is up and running every Thursday from 6-9 p.m. with Joey Ryan & the Inks and Dan Israel next week, followed by the likes of Jillian Rae (June 18), Pistol Whippin’ Party Penguins (July 2), the Twilight Hours (July 9) and the newly relaunched Zoo Animal (July 23), who were more riveting than ever during Art-a-Whirl.