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"The Man Named Turtle" | Documentary Review

by Chris Donnell

Those with awareness of Buck Gooter cannot deny that they are a wildly original uncompromisingly creative musical force. Forever rooted in Harrisonburg, Virginia the unflinching duo play a self-described “Primal Industrial Blues” style of noise-rock that makes a greater racket than most bands dream of achieving. Their live show is an experimental tour de force as the thirty year old Billy Brett manically stalks the stage while screaming, beating on a drumpad, and creating ear-piercing feedback with his theremin. Despite Billy’s attention-grabbing stage presence people who truly know the band are aware that Buck Gooter’s heart and soul resides in the comparatively stoic sixty-four year old guitarist/singer Terry Turtle. The sight of Terry onstage shredding and belting like he never passed twenty is guaranteed to linger in concert-goers heads long after Buck Gooter leaves the stage. After more than ten years of playing together Billy decided to team up with Harrisonburg based videographer Joey Bell to create The Man Named Turtle as a way of unwrapping and contextualizing the history of such a unique musician.

The twenty-five minute long documentary is presented primarily through interviews with Terry, Billy, and several prominent Harrisonburg residents with brief splices of concert footage and pictures of Terry’s life. Joey and Billy cover Terry’s upbringing, struggles with substances abuse; and eventual redemption through music, Buck Gooter, and his friendship with his bandmate Billy. Terry shares several anecdotes about growing up in a small country town and briefly touches on old friends and past bandmates who impacted him. However the most detailed and emotional moments from his narrative are intrinsically tied to meeting Billy and founding Buck Gooter. Their synergy as bandmates and friends is immediately noticeable and very obviously a strong source of inspiration for their creatively freewheeling musical efforts. Terry has an unnatural ability to produce a wide variety of art that is unified in its complete lack of regard for artistic traditions and norms. Instead of framing and selling his visual art he prefers to laminate it so that he can “throw it on the fucking floor or take it in the shower and wash it off… makes sense to me”. Even the name Buck Gooter came about as a result of Terry telling Billy “Fuck You!” with his mouth full of food. Terry’s thoroughly practical approach to life and creating art highlights his uniqueness as an entirely un-self-conscious individual. He pursues visual art, poetry, musicality, and life in general with a rare blend of heartfelt sincerity and joy of expression.

The Man Named Turtle emphasizes the profound cycle of positivity that emerges when a community and it’s great creative fonts work to mutually accept one-another. The interviewees gush with a love for Terry that practically spills out of the screen. By the same token Terry’s attitude towards his bandmate and hometown absolutely glows with warmth and gratitude. The Man Named Turtle plays like a tender thank you to a man who unfalteringly supports and inspires the Harrisonburg scene. His uncharacteristic honesty of expression has left an indelible impression among other Harrisonburg artists who, in return, encourage, reinforce, and respect both Terry and other individuals ability to artistically express themselves. Thankfully with Buck Gooter showing no signs of slowing down Terry Turtle will continue to blow away all of our rules and expectations.

The Goot Will Never Die.