I don't know anyone who was a Nirvana fan in their youth who isn't a fan now. The kind of devotion Kurt Cobain inspires doesn't easily fade away, even in the face of maturing music tastes. And with each re-mastered album, documentary, or Hall of Fame entry, the mystique surrounding the Seattle band and its troubled lead singer grows, inspiring new generations of bleached haired fans in oversized flannel shirts.
So, the news at the end of August that a Nirvana-themed cafe was to open Glasgow was hardly surprising. Named after the song on their 1991 album Nevermind, In Bloom describes itself as a "cruelty-free cafe," and sits in the centre of the city. Talk of its opening soon rippled through the Nirvana fan community, even attracting the attention of bassist and founding member Krist Novoselić, who shared a news article about it on his Facebook page. If Krist Novoselić so much as knew I existed, I would give up. There'd be nothing else to achieve.
"We just absolutely lost it when we heard he knew about us," agrees In Bloom owner Rachel Sharp.
I visit the cafe on an unseasonably sunny late summer day. When I arrive, Dinosaur Jr.'s "The Wagon" is playing through the speakers and bunches of flowers are dotted around the room—a nod to Nirvana's MTV Unplugged in New York performance, which saw the stage adorned with stargazer lilies. The shop front and interior colour scheme is a bright shade of turquoise, matching the watery album artwork for Nevermind. Press photos of the band, album posters, promotional material, and gig tickets fill the walls. "We've been mobbed all day," Sharp warns me.
It's little wonder—a selection of freshly made vegan pastas and pastries sits temptingly among the grunge paraphernalia. Even after the lunch-time rush, the place is busy with workers from nearby offices and teenagers coming in to look at the decor. When Sharp finally gets a chance to stand still, I ask her about her Nirvana fandom.
"Nirvana are very real," she says. "Me and my partner are very big fans, and there's no gimmick with them, there was just this huge love of music. We felt that fitted in well with the vegan theme, and our name 'In Bloom' points to fresh vegetables and the bloomer bread we use, so it just came together. 'Bloom' is our favourite word."
Being in the cafe takes me back to my teen years, spending hours trying to nail the chords to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and reading Heavier than Heaven instead of doing homework. Sharp and I talk about what Nirvana might have made of a place like this. While Cobain never declared himself vegan, there are suggestions that he tried vegetarianism as a way to ease his chronic stomach pain and Dave Grohl has been known to enjoy vegan dinners with Paul McCartney.
"Kurt had stomach issues, he tried veganism and vegetarianism and it wasn't for him," says Sharp. "Maybe if people eat cow and aren't proud of it, they'll be encouraged to go vegan. It's a gateway lyric."
But does it really matter what the band would think of In Bloom? I watch a group of teenagers outside taking selfies under the cafe's sign, which is written in the same Onyx font as Nirvana's logo. It's hard not to imagine an intersecting subculture of kids discovering both the band's music and ethical diets. Veganism is mainstream now, regardless of whether that was ever the intention, and the same is true of Nirvana.
"They're just cool, you know?" one of the teenagers tells me when I interrupt their photo shoot. "Like, I'm not even vegan but I'll go here 'cause Kurt would've." "Yeah," their friend attests. "I mean, I don't like eggs so that's … yeah." Customers who don't like eggs are well catered for at In Bloom. The menu spans vegan haggis, kebabs, cakes, and sandwiches. I opt for a roast tomato and onion pasta, which comes with a crisp salad topped with cashew Parmesan and balsamic vinegar.
"We opened during a lunchtime without announcement to meet the neighbours and test the reaction, and that was great," says Sharp. "A lot of people have shown great support. There's been a great mix of curious vegans, Nirvana fans, and neighbours popping in for a look since then." Glasgow, you see, has something of a reputation amongst vegans. In 2013, PETA named it the most vegan-friendly city in Europe, thanks to its array of independent plant-based cafe bars like Mono, 13th Note, and Stereo. In more recent years, Asian street food ventures like Hug & Pint have diversified the city's vegan offerings, making it an easy place to live meat-free. Try telling this to people outside of Scotland, though, and most will assume we're too busy stabbing each other or engaging in sectarian violence.
"The local council slogan 'People Make Glasgow' sums up the place pretty well," Sharp says. "There's a good quote by Gary Yourofsky [animal rights activist and lecturer], saying that most vegans are from oppressed societies, so I feel like because areas of Glasgow have been historically and are currently poverty-stricken, I think people are more open to caring more about other oppressed beings."
Sharp's loyalty for her town extends to In Bloom's suppliers. Coffee is from Ovenbird Coffee, who roast their beans in Glasgow, and nearby family-run bakery, Bavarian Bakehouse, provide bread. The majority of the cafe's vegan "meats" are marinated and cured by Sharp herself. Nirvana, with their anti-corporate, DIY approach to the music business, would surely approve.
It might sound like something verging on fanfiction, but I can imagine Kurt, Dave, and Krist hanging out at In Bloom. Glasgow—with its Seattle-esque grey skies and a alt rock legacy that includes Teenage Fanclub, The Pastels, and The Vaselines—feels like a city Nirvana would feel at home in.
In Bloom is certainly for Nirvana anoraks but it's also a distinctly Glaswegian cafe. You might have "Even In His Youth" lyrics tattooed on your arm or you might only know about grunge music from watching Kerrang! TV over your brother's shoulder—it doesn't matter. Come as you are.