Local musician Janet Earth creates planet of new music

Monty Daniel

With the recent closure of the Downtown Artery, Fort Collins music lovers are looking for other places to support local artists. AJ Frankson, also known by her stage name Janet Earth, is part of the growing DIY movement in Fort Collins, representing diverse voices through both her own music and her venue, The Planetarium.

feet of performer
AJ Frankson shows her support for the LGBTQ+ community by wearing rainbow socks to shows with her band, Janet Earth, Nov. 16, 2019. (Monty Daniel | The Collegian)

Tramping through Frankson’s snowy backyard and into her garage, the first sight was a painted sign that said “The Planetarium.” Next to it was a list of house rules, stating: “1. Everyone is welcome! 2. Unless ur a pos. DON’T BE A PIECE OF S*** or you will be kicked out!” The garage walls were lined with artwork from local artists and little string lights tossed here and there. In the corner, a pink, purple and blue flag hung from the ceiling, serving as a symbol of bisexuality. 


Beginning as a radio persona at 90.5 KCSU, Janet Earth expanded beyond the airwaves to play indie rock/pop music under the same moniker.

“I had originally started in the scene as a photographer and journalist, which is still one of my big passions,” Frankson said. “Not a lot of people knew that I liked to write and play music.”

Forming Janet Earth earlier this year and subsequently The Planetarium, Frankson has been able to bring new people into the Fort Collins music scene. 

Larson Ross, from the local band The Red Scare, reached out to Frankson and asked her to open for them at the beginning of her music career. According to Frankson, she “scrapped together a band” composed of her friends Nick Tonetti and Mary Ellendorff, who were not previously in any bands or even the Fort Collins music scene. According to Frankson, she wanted to avoid “the same 10 people in 20,000 different bands” and give others a chance to play music. 

“I was really excited, and it felt really good that someone wanted me to be involved in playing their music,” said Ellendorff, a self-taught musician and current guitarist of Janet Earth. According to Ellendorff, when she first practiced with the new band, all of her self-doubt went out the window. 

At the moment, Janet Earth’s sound varies from ukulele acoustic to raunchy indie rock and soft alternative pop.

“I use music as a way to express myself, and I feel a lot of different feelings,” Frankson said. “I think a lot of my songs have different sounds based on what they’re about and what I felt when I wrote them.”

I’ve never been in a space that was so supportive and inclusive where I felt I could express my true self without fear of being looked down upon.”– Mary Ellendorff, guitarist for Janet Earth

Especially in the Fort Collins music scene, Frankson stands out as a musician, as well as in her identity. 

“It’s inherently unique to have a brown, queer woman as the front person of a band,” Frankson said. “A lot of people are surprised when they see us play. The uniqueness of our look draws attention.”

According to Frankson, a lot of artists within the Fort Collins community play music to be a part of the show culture, but playing shows is actually Frankson’s least favorite part of being a musician.


“I have really bad anxiety, especially when I’m on stage, and I’m like ‘I’m Janet motherf*cking Earth!’ and then people try to talk to me afterwards, and I’m like ‘That’s not really me,’” Frankson said. “There’s this thing in the back of my mind that’s like ‘Do these people see me for who I really am, or do they only know who I am on stage? Do they care about me as a person aside from what I can create that benefits them?’”

As Frankson’s music career moves forward, she is making sure to be cautious of “blurring the lines between Janet Earth and AJ,” and she encourages fans of her music to do the same. 

AJ Frankson perfoms at Pinball Jones
AJ Frankson, also known as her stage name Janet Earth, performs at Pinball Jones Campus West Nov. 16, 2019. (Monty Daniel | The Collegian)

Despite not always enjoying playing shows, Frankson’s favorite part of being a musician is the people she meets and gets to play music with.

“I think connecting with people is the biggest thing,” Frankson said. “I have met so many people just from playing music.”

Being a part of the Fort Collins music scene has allowed both Frankson and Ellendorff to feel accepted. 

“I’ve never been in a space that was so supportive and inclusive where I felt I could express my true self without fear of being looked down upon,” Ellendorff said. 

According to Frankson, the Fort Collins DIY music scene is about more than music; it’s about making genuine connections.

“It’s one thing to go to a party and meet people that way, but meeting people through music is a beautiful thing,” Frankson said.

As for The Planetarium, Frankson has been bringing in diverse voices to perform in her garage twice per month. After moving into her first real house, Frankson decided that she wanted to open it up to musicians. After spending a summer cleaning, decorating and contacting artists, Frankson was ready to open up The Planetarium to the public.

“People just hopped on the idea,” Frankson said. “We got an influx of booking messages before we even had our first show.”

Frankson expressed how much she appreciates the community and how supportive they have been from the beginning. 

“It’s important to offer a space if you have one,” Frankson said.

At The Planetarium, she allows local artists to display their work to sell and invites musicians who haven’t previously played a lot of shows.

“I feel like I was a small part of making this happen,” Frankson said. “I really think it was the community that we live with.” 

Kate Breding, co-owner of The Planetarium, feels more of a connection with the community after opening the venue.

“Providing the space makes me feel super humbled,” Breding said. “Like it’s not me at all, but it’s every single person who takes the time to find our house and come to our backyard. That takes courage. We just unlocked our front door.”

DIY venues, like The Planetarium, are affecting the Fort Collins community in big ways by supporting different kinds of artists and unconventional venues.

“There’s so many types of people that want to create, and I think we couldn’t have a venue if there wasn’t people who wanted to come here,” Frankson said. 

Frankson encourages others to open their spaces to host shows, even if they are infrequent or if it’s a one-time event.

“It’s just so worth it to have people come here and see people smiling,” Frankson said. “It just warms my heart and humbles me.”

You can keep up with Janet Earth here and stream their music on Bandcamp.

Monty Daniel can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @MontyDaniel_.