A laboratory experiment examined the effects of energetic coherent motions on the structure of the wake and power fluctuations generated by a model axial-flow hydrokinetic turbine. The model turbine was placed in an open-channel flow and operated under subcritical conditions. The incoming flow was locally perturbed with vertically oriented cylinders of various diameters. An array of three acoustic Doppler velocimeters aligned in the cross-stream direction and a torque transducer were used to collect high-resolution and synchronous measurements of the three-velocity components of the incoming and wake flow as well as the turbine power. A strong scale-to-scale interaction between the large-scale and broadband turbulence shed by the cylinders and the turbine power revealed how the turbulence structure modulates the turbine behavior. In particular, the response of the turbine to the distinctive von Kármán-type vortices shed from the cylinders highlighted this phenomenon. The mean and fluctuating characteristics of the turbine wake are shown to be very sensitive to the energetic motions present in the flow. Tip vortices were substantially dampened and the near-field mean wake recovery accelerated in the presence of energetic motions in the flow. Strong coherent motions are shown to be more effective than turbulence levels for triggering the break-up of the spiral structure of the tip-vortices.